Repressing your urges all the time…can be murder…
Sometimes films can just tap into our baser instincts. Having just premiered at SXSW; Ti West’s X is the kind of gritty and dare we say filthy type of violence and perversion that none of us want to admit to loving, but secretly can’t get enough of.
In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves fighting for their lives.
With X we just might have the safest but also the most subversive piece of horror to hit celluloid in recent years…but that’s where it’s genius lies as it reminds us that outrage only works in moderation.
In his first feature effort in 6 years, writer/director Ti West has given us something that not only evokes the grime of early Wes Craven but also some moments of stellar beauty which actually feels more like they are lifted from a Douglas Sirk movie as this set up and narrative is insidious with its simplicity.
West plays with us from minute one as he leans into the set up and pokes fun at his own story in the early going, if only to lull us into a false sense of security with what is about to come. Filled with clever misdirects, earned jump scares and just the right amount of gore; this film is not just a throwback to the nasty days of independent horror cinema but a reminder from a storyteller who stepped away from the genre from awhile that he still has tricks up his sleeve.
He lures the audience in with style and simplicity but hammers us with glorious depravity that makes us react in ways that we had forgotten we could. Along with the morality play that he lays out for us, marrying the repression of some carnal urges to only have others take over makes for a fun ride that is actually really gripping to watch and in this day and age of social outrage at the drop of a hat, West reminds us that collectively we can only ever rally against so much.
It’s a rare thing for a movie that is this dirty, to also be this beautiful and actually be making a statement all at the same time. It’s a sex positive story that actually leans into the stereotypes around sex that are not only rife in society but in the horror genre as well. This wouldn’t have been possible if not for an ensemble cast who wasn’t completely committed to the material.
At the head of the class we have Mia Goth who simply out does herself in a duel role that eagle eyed viewers should be able to spot but will smack most viewers senseless until they see the end credits. She commands the screen at every turn as the driven young starlet who wants to be a household name with a secret that we eventually uncover (which could theoretically lead to other films). In her character we’re finding ourselves at the tip of an iceberg of a story that could be way more interesting. Brittany Snow leans into her role with aplomb while Scott Mescudi, Martin Henderson, Jenna Ortega and Stephen Ure all round it out pretty well.
It’s strange that this mash of sex positive gore works as well as it does but in X our storyteller is saying some pretty significant towards those powers in the world that dedicate their lives to the eradication of sex & violence in our world. He reminds that a little bit of depravity in this world isn’t necessarily a bad thing and exploring the occasional urge in a safe space is a good thing, because if you don’t it just might push you over the edge.
I never thought I’d see in my life time a horror movie about shooting a porno film be a call for moderation in life, but that’s the genius here….and why it all works so damn well.