X – movie review

Texas 1979. A group of six amateur filmmakers head into rural Texas to film an adult movie called The Farmer’s Daughter, but end up in a “f***ed up horror movie” instead. Buoyed by the commercial success of adult films like Debbie Does Dallas and Deep Throat, both of which were massive box office hits, and the burgeoning home video market, the group believe that they can also make a successful adult film that will give audiences what they want.

The director and cinematographer is R J (Owen Campbell). His sensibilities are more avant garde and he aims to make his porn film a work of art. His girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) works the boom microphone and records the sound, but she’s curious and wants to participate in the film as well, much to R J’s horror. Bobby Lynne (Brittany Snow) is the hard bitten veteran star of adult movies along with Jackson Hole (rapper Kid Cudi, credited as Scott Mescudi).

Their narcissistic and sleazy producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) has made arrangements to rent a small house on a remote ranch outside Houston. His girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth) is an exotic dancer and an aspiring porn star who wants her share of the American Dream. But Howard (Australian actor Stephen Ure) and Pearl, the elderly and creepy couple that own the ranch, are deeply religious. They take exception to the content of the group’s film and begin to kill them in grisly fashion.

There are plenty of gruesome moments here and X truly earns its R rating. Director Ti West (The Innkeepers) has directed a few slasher flicks in his career, but here he aims for something a bit more ambitious. He develops a creepy and unsettling vibe from the outset that is reminiscent of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but he tends to telegraph a few of his punches. The film pays homage to some of those classic horror films of the 70s and is liberally spliced with lots of clever knowing allusions to many other films. But West is also determined to subvert many of the usual cliches of the slasher genre.

Although the film is set in Texas it was mainly shot on location on the north island of New Zealand, but the production design team has done a superb job of creating an authentic looking setting. West and his regular cinematographer Eliot Rockett also capture a decidedly 70s vibe here with the use of split screens, faded film stock and a soundtrack of 70s hits.

Performances across the board are good, and the actors throw themselves into their roles with relish. Goth (Suspiria) plays a dual role here, appearing both as Maxine and, unrecognizable buried under layers of prosthetic makeup, as the elderly but lethal Pearl.

Greg King

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