Basically: In 1979 a group of people rent out a house on an old farm from two old people to make a porno but none of it goes well.
I’m pretty open about the fact that horror ain’t my bag. So I went into X not knowing what to expect. I don’t know much about the film’s director Ti West and, for the most part, the only cast member I really know is Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi. Having no real attachments to anyone in this was pretty freeing.
X follows Wayne (Martin Henderson), who has a plan with RJ (Owen Campbell) to make a pornographic film with Wayne’s girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth) along with Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson Hole (Mescudi). RJ brings his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) as his crew/sound person. The group travels from Houston, Texas, to an old rundown farm somewhere out in the boondocks. Wayne rents out a house on the farmland for the night from a weird older man named Howard (Stephen Ure). From there, things get weirder and weirder, especially with Howard’s wife, Pearl. While the group films their porno in secret, this causes some stuff to happen with Pearl on the farmland.
I really liked the look of the film; X captures the look of the 1970s with the clothing and added grain on the picture really well. West frames the shots well, he’s able to really build some smart tension through the framing and editing. X’s techniques are more controlled than you’d expect from a grindhouse film. Similar to some of the ways Rodriguez and Tarantino smattered the look of old films in Grindhouse, the cuts in X aren’t there to give you that grindhouse feeling but to push the story and horror forward. The kills have a subtle touch of camp. I can’t lie; I was cracking up at some of the deaths.
With that being said, the one thing that bothered me was I didn’t really catch onto the themes as much as I felt I should. I don’t know what the film is trying to say. I guess it’s something to do with older people and youth—the feeling of being undesirable—but the point is cloudy for me at times. X also brings in a kind of debate over conservatism vs. liberalism but I don’t think that comes off well. Maybe it’s my lack of horror knowledge.
All the actors are good—just like with the kills, there is the right amount of camp in the acting. Everyone plays their roles straight and true, there is no winking at the audience. I really like Henderson’s Wayne and Ortega’s Lorraine. While Goth’s Maxine is the focus and the star of the film, those two supporting characters fleshed out the ensemble the best.
One last thing, the makeup and effects team knocked it out of the park. The way the gore looks along with the regular hair and makeup sing on the screen. That kept me in even as I fell out of what I was watching.
In the End: X is a fun and solid horror film but it’s not as straightforward as it wants to be.