X Movie Review: The Twists of the Story!
“X” is a witty and vivacious homage to a less innocent era when movies could be impolite, shady, and eccentric. The dirty kind and the scary kind of movies in particular. This sneaky and nefarious film insists that the flesh and blood of gritty entertainment is, literally, flesh and blood. It is set in 1979, before the internet made pornography commonplace and before anyone was pontificating about “elevated horror.”
About X Movie Review
Not that Ti West, the director, is merely imitating the cheap, tacky thrills of yesteryear. West, whose previous works include “The House of the Devil” and “The Sacrament,” is a skilled craftsman and a knowledgeable expert in his field. He holds an advanced seminar on visual enjoyment and narrative cinema in the midst of the sex and killing.
A quick lesson in movie history is also included, with special emphasis on “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and nods to “Psycho” and “Debbie Does Dallas.” The six Texans who show up at a run-down farmstead to film “The Farmer’s Daughters” are inspired by that X-rated landmark (later adapted into an Off Broadway musical). On his property, the actual farmer, a seemingly childless old man named Howard (Stephen Ure), has rented them a bunkhouse. The rickety, unsettling main house is where he and his wife reside.
Cast and Crew
Three actors—two men and a woman, the standard heterosexual porn ratio—as well as a director, a technician, and an arrogant businessman who holds the title of executive producer make up the cast and crew. This guy, Wayne (Martin Henderson), is romantically involved with Maxine (Mia Goth), one of the stars who aspires to big things in Hollywood. Along with RJ (Owen Campbell), the director, and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), who handles the sound and is, at least temporarily, the designated prude, her seasoned co-stars Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Scott Mescudi, better known as the rapper Kid Cudi), are also a couple.
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Plot and Spoiler
It’s not a spoiler to say that the majority of these characters won’t survive because “X” is a slasher movie. There is an alligator in the pond for good measure, along with an axe, a pitchfork, and a shotgun that are all within easy reach. Howard and his wife Pearl give off ominous vibes, and West’s skill with zooming, cutting, manipulating point of view, and layering ominous sounds creates a definite sense of impending doom.
However, you might be surprised by the order of the fatalities, the chaos’s driving forces, and the survivor’s identity. The canonical circuitry diagrammed in Carol J. Clover’s 1992 study “Men, Women and Chain Saws” connecting horror and female sexuality has been rewired, most notably. By the time it’s all said and done, the movie has left the realm of period pastiche and entered a fascinating new one, revealing a feminist element in the horror genre that may have been present all along. (More investigation may be in store; West is reportedly already working on a prequel.)
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You can indulge in the common, trashy pleasures of sin and skin while waiting by adding a dash of meta. After all, this is a movie about making movies, just like “Argo,” “Day for Night,” or “Singin’ in the Rain,” so it teases the audience with sly winks and accessible industry insider references.
Many of these are paid for by poor RJ. He resembles a caricature of the film nerd with his stringy hair, wispy beard, and wet-noodle physique. They worries Wayne with his dedication to the avant-garde and wants to introduce experimental methods into “The Farmer’s Daughters” “the way they do it in France,” he says. He isn’t entirely a satirical scapegoat, though. His concern for the type of movie he’s actually making isn’t meant to be amusing, especially after Lorraine stops objecting. Although it’s a joke, his toast “to independent cinema” could also serve as West’s tagline.
The Twists of the Story
When RJ challenges the significance of plot, he has a point, which West both supports and refutes. Both horror and hard-core use narrative as a flimsy justification to show the audience the action that they actually came to see. While the sex in “X” is strictly R-rated, the film isn’t afraid to make voyeurism-related appeals. The bloodletting is neither coy nor artistic.
The narrative’s turns—the attention shifting from Wayne and Maxine and their associates to Howard and Pearl—aren’t exactly random. Unlike his pornstars, West has both things to say and bodies to show. Most importantly, he has a style that isn’t solely focused on creating fear or titillation. Dreamy, ominous overhead shots, as well as unexpectedly tender scenes, abound in “X.”
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When one of these does, Bobby-Lynne, accompanied by Jackson on guitar, bursts into a moving performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” while everyone is still breathing and wearing clothes. (A big budget for musical clearances is one thing that definitely sets “X” apart from its ’70s influences.) The song doesn’t further any particular plot or have any significant or racy goals. It’s a surprise gift. So is “X.”
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