Horror slasher movies are churned out by the dozen in Hollywood. Can’t really blame them because these movies are usually low cost and able to make a neat profit easily. Being an ardent fan of the horror genre myself, I have to admit that there are more junk than gems in the market, and it is often a uphill task finding something new that is satisfying. When the odd outstanding one does come along once in awhile, one cannot help feeling a sense of personal triumph, like you have discovered something special when that happens. Happily this is exactly the feeling I got from watching Ti West’s “X”.
The film takes place in 1979, Texas. I am not sure why so many horror movies are set in rural Texas, but here we are again, in familiar territory. Must be something in the air in Texas! The film was actually shot in New Zealand though.
The plot follows a bunch of young film makers who rented a farmhouse from an elderly couple for the weekend, to make a low budget porn movie. Of course, we all know most if not all of the people in this unfortunate group will meet with horrible deaths by the end of the film. While the plot of the movie, like the porn movies that these people are making, tends to be stereotypical to the genre, it manages to come across feeling fresh and different though how the story is told. Here is where producer, writer and director, Ti West makes his mark and makes the difference. The characters are portrayed as individuals who are not the standard fluff heads we encounter in such movies. They are opiniated, each having their own unique character and perspectives in what they do or look out for in life. The dialogue sounds fresh, real, and never silly. Ti West takes his time to flesh out the characters, and create the mood and atmosphere before unleashing the actual horror and mayhem much later in the movie. He uses clever camera angels to capture certain scenes that makes the moments so much more engaging. There are many little details that Ti West subtly adds which effectively adds on impact and viewing appreciation.
He also has an excellent cast of basically unknowns. Taking the lead is the amazing Mia Goth (2018’s version of Suspiria, A Cure for Wellness) who takes on a dual role as one of the young aspiring porn star, as well as the creepy old woman who is the wife of the farm house’s owner. In fact, I did not even realised she was playing both roles as the heavy makeup for the older character practically buried Mia’s appearance. Plus, the fact that much of the scenes happen in the dark, makes this distinction even less obvious. It was only after reading bout it post viewing, that this revelation was made known to me. Given the right projects, Mia could easily be the next Anya Taylor-Joy. The other supporting cast members made their presence felt with effectively raw energy that makes each character come out unique and memorable.
Horror slasher movies are not for everyone and it is an acquired taste for the distasteful. If you are a fan, then, X, hits the mark. Much of its success lies with Ti West’s input. His close association with the genre clearly displayed. For me, my first impressions of Ti West’s talents were ironically not from his films but rather from short stories that were part of a larger project, as in the bits he did for films like V/H/S and The ABC’s of Death. He was also involved with the first season of the TV series The Exorcist and Scream. X is probably his best work to date and I look forward to seeing more from him. Happily, I understand that he actually made a prequel to X back to back, titled “Pearl”. It is suppose to tell the background story of X’s deadly antagonists. If all goes well, we may well be able to enjoy more Ti West horror before the end of the year.