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SXSW 2022: ‘X’ is a provocative ’70s gorefest with a twist of humor

SXSW 2022: ‘X’ is a provocative ’70s gorefest with a twist of humor

SXSW 2022: ‘X’ is a provocative ’70s gorefest with a twist of humor
March 15
06:12 2022

AUSTIN, Texas — Horror fans waited in lines stretching along the streets of Austin and packed into Stateside at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday to see the world premiere of Ti West’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” inspired slasher, “X.” The premiere was intimate, with the theater seating only 305 people and including a Q&A session with cast members Kid Cudi, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson and director Ti West.

Set in 1979, filmmakers Wayne (Martin Henderson), Maxine (Mia Goth), Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi), Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) and RJ (Owen Campbell) set off into the Texas countryside to make an adult film in hopes of becoming famous. After arriving at the property they inquired about renting for the film, things take a dark turn. The owner, an old man named Howard, takes one look at the group and threatens them with a shotgun, warning them to stay away from his wife. Hardley spooked and determined to finish their film, “The Farmer’s Daughters,” the production team sneak around the property and Bobby-Lyne and Hole conduct lewd acts for the camera.

While waiting for her turn in front of the camera, Maxine encounters Howard’s wife Pearl, who subsequently becomes enthralled with Maxine and begins embracing her own sexuality. Pearl brushes her hair out, swipes bright blue eyeshadow across her eyelids and advances on Howard, begging for intimacy, which he rejects in fear the activity would be too much for his heart.

Enraged by the openness in which her houseguests embrace their own sexuality and her inability to do the same, Pearl goes on a rampage, taking them out one by one.

A24’s “X” is reminiscent of the company’s previous independent horror films while also maintaining its own ’70s southern style. The taboo of embracing one’s own sexuality is a thing of the past and big hair, blue eyeshadow and provocative clothing are in. The younger generations are open to eroticism and libido and the older generations preach their condemnation of it.

With overarching themes of sexuality, innocence and the struggles of growing old “X” offers more than the typical slasher flick. The antagonist is one the audience can feel for while still rooting for her demise.

The film is macabre in a way that pays homage to iconic films like “Psycho” and “Texas Chainsaw” in a way that feels fresh rather than rip-offy. “X” is well aware of its iconic horror influences, and ensures the audience knows it too.

Ironically enough, “X” is as humorous as it is horrifying. One moment audience members were laughing hysterically, the next they were covering their eyes and screaming in fear. As gruesome as the kills were, most came about in a way that the audience couldn’t help but laugh at. The humor West wrote into the film is a much-needed relief from the heart-stopping intensity that builds throughout it.

“A lot of people when they read it, they saw a much less fun more nihilistic gross version of the movie,” West said during the Q&A after the premiere. “They didn’t quite get the humor. Martin and Brittany right from the jump understood it completely.”

The personality the actors gave the characters enhanced the film from good to great. The cast all took lessons to hone their Texas accents, and they definitely did them justice. Henderson, who’s originally from New Zealand, speaks with a thick southern drawl that sounds as if he’s a Texas native and dons a large cowboy hat and boots to match. Ortega plays an innocent Christian boom operator turned adult film star, and Campbell plays her cinematographer boyfriend. Goth plays a wannabe star who’s addicted to cocaine (and West may or may not have confirmed she also played Pearl and is starring in an already-filmed prequel they secretly shot). Snow plays a provocative adult film star who isn’t afraid of getting physical with an old lady, and Cudi plays her sometimes-boyfriend.

The narrative is masterfully crafted by West and editor David Kashevaroff, who weave the adult film and main plot together seamlessly via parallel editing, different aspect ratios (one for the adult film and one for the main plotline) and a slow descent into madness.

“X” is a must-see for any horror fan, and there’s no doubt the prequel, “Pearl” will be just as intriguing.

Maddie’s final rating: 3.75/5

Featured image: The “X” cast answers audience questions after the world premiere at Stateside at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2022. Photo by Madeleine Moore

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Madeleine Moore

Madeleine Moore

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