Dallas Movie Screening

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Saturday, April 9, 2022


A group of filmmakers – played by Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Owen Campbell, Jenna Ortega, Mia Goth, and Martin Henderson – go to a remote farm to film an adult movie in writer/director Ti West’s film “X.” This is one that will perhaps play better with little prior knowledge of the plot. Unfortunately for us, the film’s theatrical trailer spoils many plot details. If you haven’t had the misfortune of seeing the trailer already and don’t want anything spoiled, my best advice is to go see this without reading any reviews – including this one.

For those left reading, it’s no surprise that West’s film turns out to be a slasher movie. Horror fans going into this with the knowledge that it was written and directed by Ti West will not be surprised by this fact. West has made a name for himself in the horror genre with films like “The House of the Devil” and “The Innkeepers.”

His most recent theatrical output has left a lot to be desired. “The Sacrament” and “In a Valley of Violence” were both a chore to get through. To be honest, I can’t remember much of anything from my viewing of “In a Valley of Violence.” “X” is definitely better than both of those films although it doesn’t reach the heights of “The House of the Devil,” which I still think is West’s best film, thus far.

As with “The House of the Devil,” “X” spends a good portion of time on the build-up. West develops his characters, who are an interesting bunch, enough to suit the plot and the film’s themes but not enough for you to really care about any of them. In addition to the filmmakers, there is the old couple who owns the farm – both unaware that the folks renting from them are filming a porno. The arrival of the young filmmakers causes an awakening of sorts in the old woman living there. She longs for her youthful days, spying on them and growing envious as they flaunt their bodies.

West throws suggestions that he’s going to subvert genre expectations. The filmmakers get in an argument about not being able to change the plot halfway through the movie, mentioning the bait and switch of “Psycho.” One of the characters also mentions that he plans to edit the movie in the style of the French New Wave, suggesting that West’s movie itself might be more experimental than most slasher features. Ultimately, nothing much is done with this. The biggest piece of subversion is that the killer is an old woman who has become obsessed with Mia Goth’s character. I’ve read that Goth also plays the old woman which makes the dynamic between the two characters even more interesting, creating something of a commentary on not wasting your youth.

From a tonal perspective, the film is almost entirely serious. It presents itself as a grimy 70s era film, taking place in 1979 at the onset of home video, which these entrepreneurs hope to cash in on. However, West also includes some jokes, causing conflicting tonalities as the film progresses. This includes visual gags and other more obvious attempts at humor. Perhaps some of this is just my audiences’ reactions to the scenes.

“X” is a little bit of Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” mixed with his follow-up film “Eaten Alive” with some porno elements thrown into a blender. As a whole, the movie didn’t totally work for me. It’s not a horrible film by any means, I just expected a stronger second half. For those looking for nudity and gore, there’s plenty of that. If you want some suspense or actual terror in your horror features – you’d better look somewhere else.

(Review by Bret Oswald)

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