X (2022) is a horny old-school slasher with a healthy dose of gore!

If you see “A24” show up before a movie, chances are you’re in for something special. Written and directed by Ti West, ‘X‘ is a masterfully-crafted fresh spin on the horror slasher genre – combining disturbing imagery, smart commentary and classic horror elements into a tense thrill ride. Set in 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an ‘artsy’ porn film, but little do they know – a bloodbath is about to ensue.

Sexy and terrifying go hand in hand when it comes to ‘X‘. The way Ti West links the presentation of porn and horror is surprising and strange, but also genius and satisfying. Almost everything this narrative has to offer is unexpected. Even when something is expected, it never goes down quite like you’d think – which is a testament to Ti’s ability to constantly weave circles and undercut your expectations. Ti gives this film a very old-school feel – he doesn’t go for the biggest scares and the grandest of slasher moments, rather he keeps it relatively grounded and gritty in its approach to horror. It feels like he’s taken an old 70s slasher and injected it with the depth of a modern atmospheric horror to create something subtly familiar yet satisfyingly unique.

The horror is at its most terrifying through Ti’s use of disturbing imagery. There are plenty of moments spread throughout the film that are difficult to watch due to the disturbing nature of what’s going on. It’s certainly not for the feint-hearted, something someone should have told the parents who bought a (roughly) 12 year old kid to the session I was in. It’s a brutal, gruesome and violent slasher that doesn’t shy away from getting gory. The gore isn’t extreme and unnecessary for the sake of being shocking, it all fits within the tone it establishes early on – which is designed to have you feeling uncomfortable in those key slasher moments.

One thing I love about the very layered tone within the film is that Ti even manages to incorporate some great satirical undertones that I certainly didn’t expect. There’s a couple of moments that feel like they’re designed to be both horrifying and lightly comedic – a nice little touch that worked well.

Typically in a horror slasher the performances can be good, but nothing to write home about. ‘X‘ features a lineup of great performances that are all fun to watch. Leading this film is Mia Goth, whose performance as Maxine is captivating through every single scene. At times, I found this to almost be a character study of sorts – it felt like we were getting into the psyche of Maxine, especially in terms of how she deals with some of the more uncomfortable moments and her life goal to be a movie star. Behind that great lead is a wonderful appearance from the modern horror ‘Scream Queen’ Jenna Ortega. Jenna is fast becoming an actor who would get me to watch anything she’s in, just by being in it. Despite not being the lead, I found myself rooting for Jenna as if she was the lead, which speaks volumes for the strength of her performance.

Elliot Rockett headlines the cinematography, and I must say there are some stunning shots weaved into this film. The horror sequences themselves are brilliantly shot to enhance the tension, but there’s one type of shot in particular that stands out the most. At a couple of key moments it lingers on a static wide shot of a landscape with the character(s) slowly moving across it. It’s something remarkably simple but beautifully effective in enhancing the eerie atmosphere looming over this farm.

In the end, there’s a lot to love about ‘X‘. Seductive, yet terrifying, this throwback slasher shines through its combination of raw, gruesome horror and atmospheric chills. At a surface level, the narrative sticks to a general slasher structure, though there is tonnes of depth to the meaning behind the story and the smart themes explored. It’s clear that Ti West had a clear vision for the story he wanted to tell, and he told it incredibly well. Packing great performances from both Mia Goth and Jenna Ortega, this is a must-watch if you’re up for some ‘artsy’ horror that’ll have you captivated to the last.

8.9/10

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