I’ve quite enjoyed Ti West’s film to date, so was eager to see his latest effort X. Set in 1979, it looks a little too glossy and well-shot to be the grindhouse film it feels like its meant to mimic, but it plays really well, and tells an interesting story about sex, growing old, love, and violence.
The film is bookended with the police investigation of what happened. They arrive and we see bodies, blood-soaked sheets, and have no idea what happened here, establishing an anticipatory sense of menace from the beginning, and has a fun line delivery to close the film off. But that’s just to set the stage.
A small group led by Wayne (Martin Henderson) heads out to a small remote farm to make use of the location to shoot a porno that will help them make some money and launch some of them to fame. Maxine (Mia Goth who takes on a dual role in the film) dreams of being a superstar, RJ (Owen Campbell) wants to be a cinematographer, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Kid Cudi) want to make some money, and Lorraine (Jenny Ortega) the boom operator isn’t sure what she wants from life yet.
The farm is overseen by Howard (Stephen Ure) an elderly, decrepit, man who warns the young people to behave themselves, respect the boundaries and mind their manners, his wife is in the farmhouse, and is easily disturbed.
The only problem is that his wife is already disturbed. Soon overtures of a number of kinds are made, and the blood begins to flow as secrets are revealed, and the possibility of surviving the night begins to dissipate.
X is a very sex-positive film and the real horror seems to come from the terror of aging, no longer being considered attractive, too old to be thought of in that way. Course, the murders are horrific too, but they all seem to stem from the same place.
The folks in the film are shooting a porno, so there is some nudity. There’s also a lot of really fun humour. And through some framing and visual storytelling, the viewer knows that there is a threat lurking on the farm that the film crew knows nothing about. That lurking sense of danger permeates the film, just like the religious broadcast everyone in the area seems to have on their television.
West film style tends to be a slow burn, and X is no different, as the film crew shoots their movie, we explore the relationships and the world they inhabit, while we sense danger lurking at the edges. In fact, we get to the midpoint of the film before things really take off, violence-wise, but everything before that is just a fun, well-told story that explores sexuality and sex in a positive way, dragging it into the light of the camera’s eye instead of pushing it into the corners and whispered about.
I found this one to be a lot of fun.