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REVIEWS | MAY 4, 2022
by Max Zlochiver

Ti West’s X is refreshing, not in the sense that it is a wholly original film, but that it is going above and beyond in its execution of an oft dismissed and mistreated genre: the horror-slasher. As with most A24 produced films, the cinematography, editing and sense of pace here hugely elevates the work beyond standard fare. X is replete with lingering shots of farmland, deliberate, dark and claustrophobic shot composition and slow, suspenseful plot development that adds to the creeping sense of dread.

The film follows a group of pornographic filmmakers in the south during the 70s as they shoot a film in a conveniently ominous run-down barn, tended to by an elderly farmer and his wife. X takes its time from there to give the characters room to breathe, be themselves and endear themselves to the audience in ways that many horror films fail to do. Getting to know the characters in the numerous dialogues makes the later chaos that much more intense.

It’s a difficult trick to pull off, slowing the movement of the plot purely to give the actors- all of whom are excellent- a chance to give life to their roles, yet each interaction is fluid and charming enough that it works. The ethics and philosophy of pornography are discussed and tested throughout the film (including in several scenes that are disturbing in entirely different ways from the rest of the movie) and help to keep the viewer engaged while adding thematic complexity.

Every actor is on their A-game here, giving everything to each performance and perfect choices for each role. Among the cast are Mia Goth as an up and coming porn actress with dreams of Hollywood, Scott Mescudi (also known as rapper Kid Cudi) as a virile male porn actor, Martin Henderson as the charming producer and ringleader of the outfit, and Owen Campbell as a young wannabe director attempting to elevate an often looked down upon form of filmmaking. He mentions using an avant-garde editing technique where the following shot flashes several times before starting to give the perceived-as-trashy genre more substance, a technique that the film itself employs from then on. Clever.

None of this is to say that the film doesn’t ramp up and provide exactly what fans of the slasher genre want by the end. In fact it does so in fun, brutal and creative fashion with numerous moments of intense violence. Here lies the only issue the film faces: some of the climactic scenes seem to stray a little too far into a comedic tone for the film’s own good. It would spoil some of the film’s most memorable moments to be specific, but the scenes in question involve intense violence, one-liners, and some feelings of deus ex machina. That said, the moments in question are so over the top and well executed that I still laughed. Beyond that, the film injects disturbing and discomforting scenes that explore concepts of sexuality, maturity, aging and jealousy, themes that do even more to add philosophical depth to the film.

If you’re looking for something to reinvigorate the slasher genre or just another entry into its bloodstained hall of fame, or simply a fan of good horror, X is a bloody, unnerving and fun entry into its canon.