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X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre

X Review – They all receive more than they bargained for when Wayne rents them the guest home of a run-down turn-of-the-century farm run by an ageing couple who’ve probably lived there for just as long. Wayne didn’t tell them they were here to create that kind of movie, but one look from the leering older woman Pearl (also Goth in a dual part) reveals the old-timers have far wider ideas than the kids could possibly imagine.

It’s a setup as old as the proto-’70s slasher films X is based on, but it’s West’s approach to the material that gives the film a cruel heart. West similarly explored religious terror not simply in a historical setting, but in what felt like true ’70s period filmmaking in his best horror film to date, The House of the Devil (2009). He’s a storyteller who enjoys the slow-burning tension and dread that might arise before anything horrible occurs.

With its slasher roots, X gets a little faster to the gore and other forms of visual titillation, but the filmmaker imbues X with a careful slowness that both creates the dread… and the romance of the age. Even at its most nefarious, the film feels like a love letter to indie ’70s cinema. It’s an ode to grindhouse sensibilities rather than a replacement to them.

Nonetheless, for much of the first hour, the terror relies on tense editing by West and David Kashevaroff, who withholds the most horrifying visuals until you least expect them. This exercise in style, as well as the bizarre smash cut juxtapositions, generates an effective tone that makes viewers feel uneasy. If only X could keep that vibe going throughout the entire 105-minute runtime.

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While the film demonstrates a surprising sensitivity toward its sex working protagonists, the depiction of the film’s proverbial monsters—the senior citizens Howard (Stephen Ere) and Pearl—is where the film devolves into the leering sleaziness of a creature feature that would’ve played at drive-ins on the seedier side of town in 1979. Audiences are encouraged to second-guess their own prejudices toward elders, which is intentional, especially in a culture that both fetishizes and enviously punishes young flesh. However, much of the final third of X is based on shock value and gross-out comedy at the expense of withering makeup on Goth’s face and body, and the result never quite pays off.

Goth is still a force to be reckoned with in both positions. The casting obviously plays on the duality of the beauty-age paradigm, but it’s Goth’s angry portrayal as both women that gives complexity to the idea and gets through the fright makeup she had to wear in the latter role. Goth, who has always looked like a porcelain doll on the verge of cracking in prior films, exposes jagged edges in those cracks that will cut to the bone. Ortega also does an excellent job of establishing her scream queen credentials in a matter of months.

Duration: 105 min

Release:

IMDb: N/A

X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre
X Review: A24 Horror Investigates the Sweet Side of a Texas Porn Massacre

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