Ti West knows a thing or two about horror. The filmmaker has established a loyal cult following within the ranks of hardcore genre fans. But with West’s latest effort, the SXSW selection X, the director appears on the verge of breaking into the mainstream horror scene once and for all.
Set in 1979 Texas, the film follows a group of destined stars-to-be embarking on a mission to make the next great adult film, “The Farmer’s Daughters”. With bold aspirations and a tight budget, they shack up in a tiny barn house on the property of a creepy elderly couple and try to roll their cameras in secret. But as the old couple slowly figures out what’s going on in their barn house, it awakens repressed feelings that turn this production into the greatest porn never seen.
Ti West’s X works as a solid blend of explosive gore and brutality with a more commercial appeal. West develops a strong collection of well-written characters with big personalities. It all starts with the financier and man in charge, Wayne (played by Martin Henderson), who is an “alright, alright, alright” away from nailing his Matthew McConaughey impersonation. He sees something uniquely special in Maxine (Mia Goth), an “X-factor” as he calls it, but he isn’t the only one. Without spoiling West’s cleverly scripted motive for murder on this remote Texas ranch, one that explores original ideas and visually disgusts by bringing them to life, I will say that X delivers ample amounts of sex, drugs and violence while maintaining a timeless Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe.
In addition to the film’s creative script and nostalgic dedication to the genre, X boasts terrific performances from its entire cast. The aforementioned Martin Henderson and Mia Goth both deliver stellar turns themselves, especially Goth who shines in a dual role as Maxine and the elderly wife, Pearl, but the most notable onscreen work comes from Pitch Perfect’s Brittany Snow and rapper-turned-actor, Kid Cudi. The rapper’s transition to the big screen goes as smooth as possible as he displays a natural talent for acting. By crafting such an affable collection of characters, it puts significantly more at stake for the audience when things eventually take a deadly turn for the worse. I say with confidence that after more than a decade as an emerging voice and visionary within the genre, X stands as writer and director Ti West’s most complete horror offering to date and one of the best horror films of 2022.