Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Starring: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, and Scott Mescudi
Review: Determining whether or not you’re going to like X boils down to one simple question. How do you feel about early slasher movies? I’m talking about the classics like Halloween and, especially, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If you love them, odds are you’re going to find this to be an enjoyable homage. If they’re not your cup of tea, maybe skip this one. Personally, I quite enjoyed myself with X. It was a nice pallet cleanser after the awful Texas Chainsaw sequel we got earlier in the year.
First and foremost, X is an homage to the great horror films of the 1970s. And not only in that it’s a scary movie that takes place in the 70s. Just about everything in this movie feels like it’s from another time. The plot is quite similar to Texas Chainsaw with a group of young adults pulling up to a weekend getaway in a van, only for that spot to include a creepy house, full of mysteries, and a killer family. Heck, the house itself looks almost exactly like the place that Leatherface called home in that first movie. Speaking of killers, the murders here are extremely retro. They’re over the top and gory in the same way all of the best slasher movie kills are. One in particular (involving some farming equipment) feels right out of Michael Myers’ playbook. But, perhaps most impressively, this thing is shot like those classic movies. From the POV killer shots to over-the-top sexualization to scenes where the baddies are just glaring from a distance, there were always moments that felt to me like they were directed by Tobe Hooper or John Carpenter. I legitimately think you could show this to someone and say its from the 70s and, other than picture quality, they’d believe you.
But, X is also an incredibly smart movie. Without getting into spoilers, it avoids some of the major slasher criticisms that are brought up in movies like Scream and The Cabin in the Woods. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a meta-movie like those others, but it definitely feels like Ti West was commenting on the tropes we see in those movies. Let’s just say that it’s a very sexual movie. Obviously. Heck, the characters are going to this cabin to film a porno after all. But, unlike a lot of horror films, this doesn’t seem interested in punishing these characters for their sexuality. It’s much more open to the idea that sex isn’t something worth being ashamed over. And, just when you think this movie is going exactly where every other slasher goes, it throws a wrench in the plot. Something happens towards the end of X that I would’ve never seen coming. And that one moment makes it stand out in a sea of 70s inspired horror flicks because it wasn’t afraid to buck the cliches a bit. I was very impressed.
However, I do not think X is without its problems. And, to me, the biggest thing that took me out of it was the killers themselves. While not a major spoiler, if you want to go in completely spoiler-free, I’d skip this paragraph. See? The killers are basically just an old couple mad that they can’t have sex anymore. It’s a horny old lady who wants to bone but can’t find anyone who thinks she’s attractive anymore and her husband who is jealous that his wife wants to bone everyone. In my opinion, that wasn’t really the strongest motivation and just led to the further vilification of the elderly. Plus, I just never found them to be all that scary. Now. That being said. There is apparently a prequel in the works about these characters. (Stay after the credits for a peek.) I am excited about that. And, I reserve the right to come back in a few years and re-evaluate these characters. If the prequel is done well and really gets to the heart of why these characters are killing, more than just they’re horny, I will retract this criticism and probably like this movie even more. And I honestly do 100% see that happening. So, stay tuned.
Overall, I really enjoyed X. I think it’s a fun throwback to the horror films of yesteryear. It’s obvious to me that West is a big fan of the genre and wanted to show appreciation for something that he loved. But, I really enjoyed that he was smart enough to update the material for the 21st century. Not only is this something I’d rewatch, but it’s also something I’d recommend putting on with a group of people. Nothing quite brings people together like a good slasher. And this deserves to be up there with your Nightmare on Elm Streets, Halloweens, and Friday the 13ths. Oh, and let’s not forget Texas Chainsaw. It’s funny that this feels more like Texas Chainsaw than the actual Texas Chainsaw movie we got this year.
TL;DR: X’s tone, setting, and cinematography feel right at home with the best of the 1970’s slashers, but with a much-needed 21st-century twist.
Score: 7/10 (Good)