There’s a scene in the movie Funny Farm where Chevy Chase plays an inspiring writer who more or less stands over his wife, played by Madolyn Smith, as she reads part of his novel manuscript and points at pieces he thinks are the best. But to his dismay, she later mentions she doesn’t like it. This is the way I felt while watching X, a horror movie made by Ti West. There’s too many scenes where I get the feeling he was pointing at scenes and acting like we should be amazed by them.
The problem is X is just a mediocre run of the mill slasher horror. To quote Peter Griffin, “It insists upon itself.” And I hate movies that insist upon themselves. The problem is this pretentious attitude bogs down any real joy, or in this case, terror. Not once did I feel any sense that a scene was too unsettling or unnerving.
The plot revolves around six people who have rented an old boarding house in rural Texas. The movie was filmed in New Zealand, which is one of the few impressive things with this movie how West and his crew got it to look like BFE Texas. Martin Henderson, a Kiwi himself, totally going for a Matthew McConaughey impersonation plays a sleazy producer Wayne Gilroy, who along with his girlfriend, Maxine Minx (Mia Goth looking like Linda Lovelace) set out to make The Farmer’s Daughter.
With them are Jackson Hole (Stephen “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) a Marine and Vietnam vet with a Mod Squad Clint Hayes afro and his girl, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), a one-dimensional dingbat blonde who should have “Kill Me” on her back. There’s also the snobbish film director, RJ Nichols (Owen Campbell), and his girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), who also seems like the prudish, virginial “Final Girl” but she decides she wants to have sex with Jackson on screen along with Maxine and Bobby-Lynne.
But things take a change for the worst when Pearl (Goth in a dual role hidden behind make-up to appear very elderly) goes on a killing spree with her husband, Howard (Stephen Ure also hidden behind make-up to appear older). This isn’t a spoiler because the trailer by A24 more or less hinted to it. As a matter, the movie is such a run of the mill slasher that there’s no real thrills. It’s just boring. People are stabbed and shot twice. A slasher in which two characters are fatally shot is just lazy.
There is one scene of Maxine skinny-dipping and being followed by an alligator that is done well in an aerial shot but you know she’s not the intended victim but someone else later. I don’t understand what West was going for. He’s too busy nudging us by telling us what he’s paying “homage” to that I was bored. The sex scenes aren’t risque. The real pornos from this era were actually pretty well made and shot. These are very R-rated scenes filmed to pass the rating boards.
Even the kill scenes are mediocre and unthrilling. Since most of these scenes take place at night, you feel it was done so the ratings board would view the violence as too graphic. Maybe X needed to be rated NC-17. That would’ve been ballsy. It needed to go for the jugular. It doesn’t. This might explain why the movie had a huge drop-off in its second and third week before being out of the top 10 after the third weekend. Or maybe the audience was as bored as I was.
I’ll be honest here. After Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Rob Zombie to name a few making these 1970s era grindhouse movies, why do we need more filmmakers lingering on this era. This is West’s first movie since 2016’s In the Valley of Violence, which was a well-made western that was also an ode to Spaghetti Westerns, but it was a true Western in form. I get that the 1970s was a radical time in filmmaking. But it’s time to stop living in the past.
West has already announced that he shot a prequel, Pearl, in secret that is due out later this year. Maybe it will be better. But X just feels like it should have been better. Even the climax to this movie is a letdown and almost like a cartoon in what happens to one of the killers. Scream and The Cabin in the Woods took on horror motifs but made them watchable because there were characters we cared about. I didn’t care for these characters and I just felt a lot of this I had seen before and done better.
What do you think? Please comment.