X (2022) | Discussion, Recommendations & Spoilers | Film Review
X (2022) is an American slasher horror film written, directed, produced and edited by Ti West. The film stars Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, Jenna Ortega, Kid Cudi, Martin Henderson, Owen Campbell and Stephen Ure. X (2022) was released on March 18, 2022 in the United States and distributed by A24. The film is currently available for rent or purchase on streaming services YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Prime and Google Play.
In the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), who we discover is an up and coming actress in pornographic films. Her boyfriend and producer of the films, Wayne (Martin Henderson). is convinced that home videos are the wave of the future of pornographic films and Maxine will be a huge star.
Maxine and Wayne are on their way to shoot a film in rural Texas with several people; Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Kid Cudi), Maxine's fellow actors, and RJ (Owen Campbell) and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), the director of the film and his girlfriend/assistant. Everyone seems excited about getting to the location of the film and getting started, except for Lorraine. It turns out that Lorraine leads a different, less sexual life and is uncomfortable with RJ's career choice and is thus reluctant to help RJ with the film.
As the group stops at a gas station, Maxine and Wayne head inside the convenience store. We learn that Maxine is convinced she deserves a better life than what she has been given and is determined to be wildly successful in pornographic films. Wayne adds to Maxine's vision of being the top pornographic actress in home video, telling Maxine she has something no one else has and will be famous.
As Wayne and Maxine are talking, we see the clerk at the convenience store is watching an evangelical sermon on a black and white television. She seems engrossed in the sermon and does not seem to register the conversation between Wayne and Maxine. When she does finally become aware of their presence, she looks disgusted and we get an idea of the kind of people that live in that part of rural Texas.
After the group gets gas and snacks, they head to the filming location. We see that the filming location is actually on an isolated property that features a large house, a smaller house/barn and a large pond. The property is vast and beautiful, making the group confident that no one will hear what they are up to, as Wayne apparently did not tell the people who own the property that they are filming a porno (great choice, Wayne, I'm sure they'll be thrilled when they eventually find out).
Wayne gets out of the group's van to greet the owner of the property at the large house and is instead greeted by the owner pointing a gun at him. Wayne explains he called earlier about renting the property and the owner, an elderly man named Howard (Stephen Ure), finally remembers who Wayne is and puts down his gun. Wayne is understandably shaken and tries to use his charm and charisma on Howard to ease the tension, but Howard is a weird, angry little man and he isn't having it.
Howard leads Wayne and the group to the smaller house/barn and questions Wayne about the amount of people he brought with him, since Wayne told him earlier it would be just him. Wayne again tries to charm Howard by telling him the group won't be any trouble, but Howard remains disgruntled and tells Wayne that his wife cannot be disturbed by the group and they need to keep to themselves and not get up to any hijinks (he didn't say hijinks, but we all know he was thinking it). Man, if Howard only knew what they were really going to do...or does he?
The rest of the film follows the group as they make their film and we find out who Howard and his wife really are and why Howard's wife shouldn't be disturbed.
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*Discussion contains spoilers
After the group's encounter with Howard, Wayne, Bobby-Lynne, Jackson, Lorraine and RJ begin to film the first scenes. Maxine wanders off outside to the nearby lake and goes for a swim in the dirty ass pond. The best part is there's a giant ass alligator living in the pond, so we are titillated with the prospect of Maxine being eaten alive by the pond monster.
Fortunately, Maxine gets out of the pond in time and wanders off again to the smaller house to see what the rest of the group are up to (they're up to porn, Maxine, duh). As Maxine stands outside the smaller house, she looks at the larger house and sees an elderly woman outside who is staring at her. Maxine waves, but the woman doesn't respond normally by waving back, she just keeps staring.
Curious about the elderly woman, Maxine approaches the larger house and goes inside, trying to get more information about the woman. The woman, who we discover is named Pearl (Mia Goth), laments to Maxine how she used to be just as beautiful as Maxine and felt like she had everything she ever wanted. Pearl offers Maxine a glass of lemonade and gestures for her to sit at the kitchen table so they can talk.
We surmise through Pearl's discussion with Maxine that as Pearl has gotten older, she finds that she has lost her beauty and although she is still a very sexual person, she has lost the sexual power she used to have. Pearl finds herself disappointed by life and jealous of those who are young, beautiful and have their whole lives ahead of them. Although Pearl's husband Howard does find Pearl sexually attractive and does want to have sex with Pearl, his health is bad and he worries that he will have a heart attack if he and Pearl have sex.
Maxine leaves the larger house at Pearl's urging so Howard doesn't find out that Pearl met anyone in the group. Maxine goes to the smaller house and we see that Howard figures out that someone from the group was in the house when he sees two lemonade glasses on the kitchen table.
As Maxine is on her little adventure, swimming in dirty water, almost getting eaten by a giant alligator and talking with the elderly and weird, the group is, so to speak, banging it out in the smaller house. Bobby-Lynne and Jackson film a few sex scenes in one of the bedrooms. (Just a note: if you're averse to sex scenes, just skip these scenes. They aren't particularly graphic, but they are suggestive).
We get the feeling as time goes on, that Lorraine is warming up to her own sexuality and is curious about pornography, much to the dismay of RJ, who assumed she was against pornography in general and wasn't a sexually open person. Bobby-Lynne and Wayne seem delighted that Lorraine is more open and answer her questions openly and honestly.
I think it is refreshing to see this take in a movie and I think it adds commentary to how some people in the United States are averse to talking about sexuality at all and others are more open about it. This film also addresses a lot of themes in American society about aging and sexuality and I think it does it well.
We then see Maxine film her scenes with Jackson, first conversating, then completing their sex scene in the barn. Since no one cares about privacy, all of the curtains are open in the place and some windows don't even have the idea of something to cover them, so of course when Maxine and Jackson are having sex, Pearl's creepy ass is watching them outside of the barn, getting aroused and angry that she's not getting any play.
Pearl goes to the house and puts on some makeup to resemble Maxine and asks Howard if they can have sex. Howard, presumably thinking of Fred Sanford grabbing his heart and saying his catchphrase (you know the one), tells Pearl his heart won't be able to take it if they take the wild ride together. I mean, Howard, if you're going to die, that's not a bad way to go, just sayin'. Pearl tearfully wipes off her clown makeup, rejected and sad.
This scene actually did make me sad. There is a running theme in American society that as you get older, you are no longer sexual, beautiful, handsome and/or attractive. This can feel like a tremendous loss of power and result in a loss of confidence and self-esteem, especially for those who have been praised for their looks and youth above all else. If one's self-esteem is wrapped up in something such as youth and looks, it can be devastating to lose your looks as you get older.
There is so much pressure in the United States to not age, especially for women. People are using Botox to smooth out and reduce wrinkles, they use fillers to make their faces appear more plump and youthful and use dermatologists and plastic surgeons to attempt to retain and get back their youth. It seems almost as if there is no pride in getting older and we are failing to see that wrinkles are perfectly normal and that as we become older, we can become wiser, we tend to be happier with what we have, we are still beautiful and handsome and we can be even more sexual than we were in our youth.
If Pearl hadn't primarily focused on her looks or was primarily praised for her looks, getting older might not have been such a shock as she aged. She may have found that she no longer looked the same as she did when she was younger, but she had other avenues for building her self-esteem as she became older. It's almost as if as you age, the more you try to look like you did when you were 20-30 years old, the less you look like that and more like uncanny valley.
We then see Lorraine ask Wayne if she can film a sex scene in the film. RJ is alarmed and tries to convince Lorraine and the rest of the group that it is a terrible idea, but no one seems to think it's a big deal except RJ. I mean, if she wants to do that, that's fine, no big deal, but I'm with RJ, I wouldn't really want to date my girlfriend anymore if she wants to have sex or what have you with another dude and make me film it. Making me film it is where I draw the line, dammit.
Lorraine films the scene and RJ basically has a breakdown later that night after everyone goes to bed. RJ finds that he can't sleep as Lorraine sleeps peacefully next to him. Part of me thinks it's hypocritical that RJ can direct and film pornography but doesn't want his girlfriend to essentially be an openly sexual person, but part of me thinks it's pretty messed up that Lorraine didn't take his feelings into consideration and just gave Jackson oral sex against RJ's wishes and had RJ film it. I think they should've just broken up at that time because it's an inarguable point, but that's just me.
Anyway, RJ gets up to take a shower and breaks down sobbing. After he calms down a bit, he decides he's just going to take the van and ditch the group, since they encouraged Lorraine to shoot a pornographic scene and he feels like Lorraine betrayed him. As RJ begins to leave, he sees Pearl in her nightgown outside of the house, standing in front of the van. Thinking she's just a regular elderly woman, not a weird, possibly homicidal elderly woman (who has a hankering for some fresh meat if you know what I mean), RJ gets out to try to help her.
But wait, what's Pearl hiding behind her back? Uh-oh.
As RJ tries to lead Pearl to the larger house, she tries to kiss him and get her groove on. RJ is alarmed and kind of grossed out, so he not so suavely rejects Pearl, sending her into a rage. Hey, Pearl can't get rejected by her husband and the nerdy director guy too, guys! It's time for revenge.
Pearl, it turns out, was holding a sharp knife and cuts RJ's throat. As he falls to the ground, she doubles down and hacks away at his neck, face and upper torso area until we are no longer sure what parts of RJ are what. That's harsh, Pearl. RJ was having an extremely bad night and well, yes, it's over now, but...I'm sure he didn't want to die.
Pearl, covered in blood, almost seems like she expected things to end up this way and starts attacking the group. Lorraine discovers RJ is missing and tells Wayne, who then agrees to help Lorraine look for RJ. Wayne goes to the barn to look for RJ, steps on a nail (don't watch that part, it's so gross) and starts limping around the barn, trying to find out what happened to RJ. Well, Pearl is out there with a damn pitchfork and as Wayne peers through a hole in the barn's exterior wall, Pearl nails him with it right through the face, killing him.
Meanwhile, Lorraine goes to the larger house to try to find RJ and meets Howard up there. Howard tells Lorraine he will help look for RJ, but he only has one flashlight. He tells Lorraine he has another flashlight, but she'll have to retrieve it from the basement. Lorraine, being a dumbass, falls for this and goes to the basement.
She finds the flashlight and also discovers a man hanging in the corner of the basement by his hands, with his pants down and his genitals exposed. Also, he's gray and dead as shit, so Lorraine understandably freaks out and starts screaming for RJ to help her, unaware that RJ is also...dead as shit. Lorraine goes upstairs, but finds the basement door locked (duh).
I just have to say, what does Pearl do to stay so spry? She's stabbing people with knives, pitchforks, etc., trying to seduce the youngin's and her husband...Pearl seems to be able to do it all and she's got to be in her 80's or 90's. Not that I'm impressed with a crazy-horny-serial killer-rapist-torturer, but Pearl is admirable for how fit she is and I hope I'm that spry when I'm older.
While Wayne and RJ are getting mutilated and killed, Howard is locking Lorraine in the basement and going to approach the other strapping male in the group to take him out. He asks Jackson to help him find Pearl, who he says he is worried about and can't find. Jackson falls for this line and helps Howard search his property for Pearl. We see that Howard has placed a light in the water, making it look like Pearl wandered into the swamp or whatever sludge it is and Jackson wades in. As Jackson wades out, telling Howard he can't find Pearl, Howard blows Jackson away with his gun.
While this malarkey is going on, Pearl is (not in the swamp, ya'll) sneaking in the smaller house and trying to crawl into bed with Maxine, obviously hoping Maxine is into elderly homicidal women who have not washed the blood off their hands after murdering their sworn enemies lately. Maxine wakes up to Pearl trying to molest her and freaks out, screaming. This wakes up Bobby-Lynne, who is wondering where everyone went.
As Bobby-Lynne goes to help Maxine, she sees Pearl scurrying out of the house and decides to follow her to the pond (guess who's going to get a late night dinner). Bobby-Lynne is kind to Pearl, but Pearl despises Bobby-Lynne, much to Bobby-Lynne's surprise.
After an argument where Pearl tells Bobby-Lynne she is a whore, Bobby-Lynne stands up for herself, only to be pushed off the short pier and into the arms of a monster alligator who appears to be twice the length of a human being. The giant monster alligator turns Bobby-Lynne into teeny tiny little meat chunks, easy on the stomach for digestion.
As Pearl is helping the alligator get dinner, Howard goes back to the house and checks on Lorraine. Lorraine has found a hatchet and tries to chop through the door at the worst possible angle, so it's basically the furthest opening she could've make from the lock, aside from going higher or lower. So, as she's struggling to reach the lock with her short arms, Howard comes in and hits her fingers and presumably breaks them, stopping her from leaving.
Meanwhile, Maxine has made her way into the larger house and hides under a bed. Soon after, Pearl comes in the house and finally convinces Howard to give her some lovin'. They finally have sex and even though they are essentially homicidal maniacs, it was touching and made me like them despite the circumstances.
Unfortunately, Maxine is stuck under the bed they are banging it out on and freaks out. She crawls out from under the bed and goes to help Lorraine out of the basement. Lorraine, a certified dumbass, is loud and obnoxious and draws the attention of the couple, despite Maxine's attempts to quiet her.
Lorraine, of course, gets killed by Howard and Howard, after all the excitement of getting it on and killing people, finally has a heart attack and presumably dies. Pearl, desperate, asks Maxine to help and Maxine is incredulous. Maxine tells Pearl that she will not help and flees the property.
Pearl shoots at Maxine, but misses and the force of the gun makes her frail elderly body fly about 20 feet backwards out the front door and onto the dirt, breaking her hip. As Pearl lays there, relearning how to breathe, Maxine escapes in the couple's truck, but not before running Pearl over with the vehicle first, killing her.
Later, after Maxine presumably calls the police and an investigation ensues, the police find the film footage and we hear the same sermon the gas station clerk was listening to. It turns out that the man giving the sermon is Maxine's father and Maxine is presumed missing by her family.
I really liked this movie. I thought it addressed themes in society that I have often thought about and contemplated, themes such as aging, sexuality, power, self-esteem, relationships, societal pressure and norms and health. This film's content was deeper than a lot of other slasher films I have seen and I felt it was sex-positive and age-positive, which I believe is needed in American society as a whole.
I think that Maxine was looking for any way she could to shed her religious background and become someone completely different, no matter what it took. I don't believe she really wanted to engage in pornographic films, as she snorted cocaine before doing her scene.
It didn't seem like Bobby-Lynne had to do any drugs to be comfortable, she just was comfortable with who she was and what her chosen profession was. Bobby-Lynne wasn't trying to get anywhere like Maxine was, she was just comfortable being herself. This was very different than the attitudes of both Maxine and Pearl, who seemed uncomfortable with being themselves.
Pearl seemed to think being young again would solve all of her problems, that if she had the power of youth, beauty and sexuality back, she would be happy like she was when she was young. I think if Bobby-Lynne had made it to old age and looked different, she still would have been happy with being herself because that's just who she was, which is why I think Pearl was so enraged at Bobby-Lynne from the get-go.
Even if Pearl was young and pretty, she still wouldn't be at the same level as Bobby-Lynne's confidence because Bobby-Lynne was comfortable with herself, not just her looks. It makes it seem like Bobby-Lynne would always be the winner and Pearl would never be better than her and Pearl couldn't have that reminder around, so she killed her.
I think in Maxine, Pearl saw that even with beauty and youth, Maxine was not happy with who she was and sought out anything she could think of to make her happy, but nothing really made her happy. I think Pearl saw Maxine's future was going to turn out just like hers, where her youth would pass her by and she'd try to cling onto it, trying to achieve the same feelings of confidence and high self-esteem, but ending up feeling worse because it would be an unattainable goal. Maxine, realizing this truth and not wanting to confront the reality of Pearl's revelation, fled yet again in search of a new future that would finally bring her the happiness and recognition she so desired.
What did you think of this film? Have you seen this film? Did you like it? Do you think it sends a positive message? Please share your thoughts below!