Ti West puts the X in extremely authentic

Out on DVD and Blu-Ray today, there’s an authenticity to the 1970s aesthetic of Ti West’s X that’s so meticulously well-observed that it’s only the presence of recognisable contemporary actresses such as Mia Goth, Brittany Snow and Jenna Ortega that prevent you from assuming you’re watching some long-lost grindhouse flick that’s only recently been discovered in the back of an abandoned and dusty lock-up somewhere in the back streets of Hollywood.

Intending to shoot an adult film for the booming porno market in 1979, would-be producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) convinces his girlfriend and aspiring porno actress Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) to join him, fellow actors Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi) and, director RJ (Owen Campbell) and RJ’s girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) for a road trip through rural Texas. While Bobby-Lynne and Jackson grow closer, Lorraine is initially uncomfortable with the film’s content while her boyfriend RJ convinces himself he’s making a serious work of cinema.

X is a movie which isn’t ashamed of its influences, notably THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with which it shares not only the backwater Texas location but also the vividly evocative dusty backroads of the sun-desiccated seventies.

It actually takes quite a while for X to embark on its inevitable end game, with West allowing the cast to shine as the atmosphere of menace builds slowly an increasingly insistent undercurrent of unease that permeates every scene. The sincerity of the homage to the backwoods horror genre makes the eventual outcome both inevitable and largely predictable, which is something of a disappointment after such rich worldbuilding. The kills are suitably gruesome and gory, of course, as is the expected punishment for the sexual shenanigans which notoriously attract a grim fate in these kinds of movies.

X is, perhaps, more successful in exploring its themes of time and the impossible desire to recapture lost youth during its quieter moments and it does a good job of embracing its explicit subject matter without ever resorting to gratuitous titillation. There’s a dreamy patience to the whole thing which almost lulls you into a false sense of security despite the fact you know what is going to – what must – happen. The performances are terrific across the board, with Mia Goth being a particular standout and while some of the practical make-up is a little too conspicuous, the practical effects used for the kills are glorious.

There’s a precision and purpose to X that suggests Ti West has a larger vision at play here and with news of a prequel (secretly shot back to back with this movie) on its way, these are X-citing times!

Score 8/10
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