X takes place in 1979, just before the farm. A porn film crew, consisting of producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), his girlfriend/muse Maxine (Mia Goth), actors Bobby-Lynn (Brittany Snow) and Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi, bka Kid Cudi) as well as the artistically-minded director RJ and his quiet girlfriend/boom mic operator Lorraine, have rented a guest house at a farm in Texas to film their newest skin flick “The Farmer’s Daughter”. There is a caveat: Wayne hadn’t told the strange, elderly farm owners about their dirty movie-making plans. Once nightfall comes, the owners catch wind, and things turn very, very bloody.
“X does at least manage to capture the style and atmosphere of the era”
It’s important to note to anyone unfamiliar with Ti West’s previous films (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) that West’s horror are homages to old-school horror films in every sense of the word. Those who see the chaotic trailer will think the film will be a complete gorefest similar to a Friday the 13th. They will be surprised at the surprising amount of patience the movie displays beforehand.
A large part of X is focused on the porn shoot itself and acts as a semi-love letter to the style of low-budget filmmaking of the era. The camerawork is grainy, the dialogue is corny, but nearly all the characters firmly believe they’re truly making something great. The film crew are all genuinely charming thanks to sharp and funny writing. Each of the characters comes off as genuinely likeable and (no pun intended) fleshed out.
That isn’t to say X is completely lacking in tension. The farm owners are sufficiently creepy, being mostly shot from a distance throughout and being horribly grotesque once we finally get a close up, especially the wife Pearl (also surprisingly played by Mia Goth in heavy prosthetics).
“There’s a feeling like there might be a bigger method to the old couples’ madness.”
There are frequent shots of Pearl just standing in the background that manage to be incredibly unnerving. And once the blood starts flying? Does it ever. My main disappointment is that the movie kind of peters out at the very end. There’s a feeling like there might be a bigger method to the old couples’ madness. While the answer may be a bit more grounded, it felt slightly unsatisfying, especially with the recent announcement of an already-shot prequel in the works.
While it doesn’t reach the heights or the relentless terror of something like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, X does at least manage to capture the style and atmosphere of the era much better than the recent TCM sequel. It’s a certified crowd-pleaser for the midnight madness crowd.