Isabella Astuto ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
A24 is one of the most popular film distribution and production companies of the 21st century, releasing hit movies such as Lady Bird and Spring Breakers. The company has more recently been recognized for the horror movies it’s released, such as Midsommar and Hereditary. The most recent movie to join their ranks is Ti West’s X, a 2022 love letter to the 70’s slasher genre.
While the movie does have a strong ensemble cast, our main character is Maxine Mink, played by Mia Goth of 2018’s Suspiria remake fame, a cocaine addicted pornstar-hopeful venturing out into rural Texas to film the porno that should be her ticket to stardom. She’s accompanied by her boyfriend, Wayne Gilroy (Martin Henderson), her co-stars, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi, known better as rapper Kid Cudi), and their director, RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenna Ortega). To film the home movie, they rent out a cabin on the property of an elderly couple, Howard and Pearl, played by Stephen Ure and Mia Goth herself. The reasoning for Goth’s dual roles in the film is explained as the plot progresses and the couple becomes more and more aware of what the group is filming and Maxine and Pearl’s lives become increasingly intertwined.
As the film progresses, we watch as Pearl tries to get closer to Maxine, making a few subtlely sexual advances on her. Maxine reacts in confusion and disgust, leaving us to watch Pearl lament over her own lost youth. She approaches Howard for sex, but he refuses, saying his heart is too weak. Later that night, she ends up stumbling across the group and watches, visibly aroused, as Jackson and Maxine have sex. Her jealousy of the group’s youth and vitality ends up manifesting in violence, as she and her husband begin to pick them off one by one. The film ends in a standoff between Pearl and Maxine, the only two left alive, culminating in Maxine running over a dying Pearl’s head with her car as she drives away.
Director Ti West said he always wanted the two to be played by the same actor to encapsulate the parallels between them. In an interview with Collider.com, West said, “I think people kind of want to be where they’re not, you know? It’s like, ‘When I get there it’s gonna be better,’ and then when you get there you realize, ‘Oh, if I could just go back it would be better.’” Maxine dreams of Hollywood, obsessing over what her life as a famous star would look like. Pearl, on the other hand, had her time in the spotlight, explaining to Maxine in their first meeting that she used to be a beautiful dancer. She clearly resents Maxine for living what she once had, while Maxine is horrified by the prospect of ever ending up like Pearl.
There’s a scene towards the end of the movie in the middle of the couple’s killing spree where Howard agrees to have sex with Pearl, and we watch as the two go at it, a terrified Maxine hiding under the bed. Comparing this scene to the other sex scenes in the movie is very interesting. The scenes for the group’s movie are obviously very enticing, shot by the ambitious RJ in a self-proclaimed French New Wave-esque style. All the actors are conventionally attractive, while Howard specifically, as observed by Jackson at the beginning of the movie, is “one ugly motherfucker.” Many reacted to their sex scene with revulsion or laughter, a top review on the movie social media network Letterboxd by user karsten saying, “at a certain age having missionary sex with your bag of bones husband is considered a horror scene.” This type of reaction is at the root of Pearl’s own self-doubt that presumably led to her murderous tendencies. She despises her age and the fact that she’s not desirable anymore, and even once her husband soothes these fears, finally giving into her requests, the audience ends up reinforcing them, almost mocking her deepest insecurities.
West has promised a prequel to X about Pearl, titled Pearl accordingly. It is supposedly already in post-production, as it was filmed at the same time as its successor. This will focus on Pearl when she was Maxine’s age, still played by Goth. It’s revealed later in X that this is not Pearl’s first experience with murder, as at one point, Howard sends Lorraine down to their basement for a flashlight and she discovers a tortured corpse. West says Pearl will explore when she started killing, as well as the start of her relationship with Howard. This promise has left many fans of this first movie hungry for a release date, a good sign for the start of West’s potential expanded universe.