Dir. Ti West
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
To put it politely, X is uber violent, uber nasty, uber sexy and most importantly, uber X-rated. If a film was ever to live up to its title, X ticks the box. It's been 10 years since Ti West last directed a feature horror and at one time he was the guy to watch. Giving us the fantastic 80's homage, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, X give West a chance to recreate some elements of genre film making by setting the film in the 70s and from the outset, the nostalgia hits hard.
Opening up with a fantastic camera shot cleverly replicating 4:3 format through barn doors, there's something eerily familiar about an isolated farmhouse in southern USA. Instant comparisons to the likes of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE are earned but not quite as founded as one may think on first appearances.
A group of film makers rent out a lodge to make a porn movie and within 24 hours, soon realise that their hosts aren't as welcoming as they may wish them to be. The rest, results in “one God-damn fucked up horror picture.”
Mia Goth (A CURE FOR WELLNESS, SUSPIRIA ), Jenna Ortega (SCREAM ), Brittany Snow (PITCH PERFECT, PROM NIGHT ), Martin Henderson (THE RING , THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT), Kid Cudi and Owen Campbell round off the wannabe film makers and give the roll 110% as the first half wouldn't be out of place in an off-street darked out cinema. There's elements to indicate tension however nothing that really foresees the terror that unfolds.
At times it borders on the likes of ALMOST FAMOUS and what Ti West manages to do well is write a genuinely likable cast which carries the mainstream taboo subject at the centre of X. What's more surprising, is that X has much more heart than it's blood soaked violence tries to cover and aptly plays on heartstrings beautifully at the half way point with a poignant campfire song that blends the events of two worlds interwoven through the matter of sexual desires.
Goth proves once again she is a powerhouse and not one of the crew is underplayed. For a genre that is used to musical stars teasing an acting career with varying degrees of success (Chester Bennington, Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Paris Hilton to name a few), Kid Kudi, Jenna Ortega and Brittany Snow prove double threats here.
The film traverses genre and flickers between the fictional film in the making and the parallel events unfolding like a story book with two different authors but never strangers. A film plentiful in layers that at times it’s easy to forget this is a horror and those sharp shocks stab you in the neck like the next unsuspecting victim for when the gore arrives, it’s a swift reminder of the genres darker moments and recollects the torture porn phase we had in the mid ‘00s. Mix with that a pulsing 70’s rock soundtrack and X is nothing short of a horror masterpiece.
Unlike many films that came from studio A24, X is the most anti A24 film ever made in the most A24 way. The first half was pure softcore porn and it leaves you wondering where it's going, only after that perfectly played song did we get into horror but when it comes it is vicious and nasty. Something rarely credited to A24 who have given us THE WITCH, MIDSOMMAR and A GHOST STORY. Each frame given the pastel shades of a bygone era and in the same year a direct sequel to a 1974 classic failed to deliver, X certainly hits the spot. For a film that is marketed as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE meets THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, it genuinely leaves viewers heartbroken for the hosting couple who fight against the impacts of old age and reminded of lost desires by the arrival of the film crew. Despite what follows, there's a real heart to the film that is carried really well. Ti West is back, and he's just slaughtered the competition.