All I knew about this one going into it was what I thought was the basic premise, late 70’s porn filmmakers in Texas run into a family of psychos. Come to find out, that was spot on while simultaneously being so off the mark. This film exceeded any expectations I may have had coming into it.
Yes, it’s about a small group of filmmakers in Texas who want to cash in on the lucrative adult movie market. Yes, they go out into the middle of nowhere to shoot in a secluded cabin. Yes, they encounter murder and mayhem. Stop.
I’ve been a fan of Ti West’s since Cabin Fever 2, which I thought was one of the most fun, goriest throwbacks to the 80’s flicks of John Hughes ever made. House of the Devil was even better and The Innkeepers, I loved it. When I saw he was involved with this film from A24, the studio that can take a twenty-minute idea and stretch it out over two hours, I was less interested. Shame on me.
To say too much, I run the risk of revealing plot points and run the risk of giving away a couple of the film’s surprises and shocks. I will say that I’ve spoken to friends about it, and many didn’t respond to it the same way I did. Some people have been downright disturbed by the film’s content and execution. Is there a greater compliment to a horror film than that? It is disturbing. It’s a film you think about everything that is going on, and once you sort of understand the characters’ motivations, it does get under your skin. You continue to think about it long after it’s over, until you watch it again.
This is no slasher film, but a lean thriller with some incredible characters who pull you right into the story. Considering the premise, it would have been really easy for each of these characters to be two-dimensional dimwits waiting for their turn to fall under the knife, but X delivers so much more than that.
Another endearing quality about the film is that the year in which it takes place, 1979, is not a character. Sure, the year is represented in clothes and autos and music, but when the kids get to the cabin it is not some over decorated Rob Zombie/Bob Burns wet dream of garish decoration and atmosphere. It’s just the time when the story takes place. (Shot in New Zealand, I would guess it looks like this all the time.)
X does recall some of the down and dirty exploitation films of the 70’s, but that is less from direct references to other films and more that we are now used to this kind of retro filmmaking. X is its own beast, and it is not trying to be anything else.
The characters are really what make this film work and they say more when they are saying less. The elderly Pearl is such a fascinating character, we are due a prequel film to really find out what makes her tick. (During a down time during filming, when West had to quarantine in his hotel room for two weeks, he wrote that prequel and then made that movie too!)
Give it a watch and see what you think. If horror movies are supposed to be disturbing and ugly, X is a fine addition to the genre.