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SXSW 2022 review: Ti West’s X is a nightmarish story that lacks in execution

Production still from V
X has its world premiere at SXSW 2022. Pic credit: Christopher Moss/SXSW

Directed by Ti West, X tells the story of a group of people who travel to a remote location in Texas to shoot an adult film. It stars Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Scott Mescudi, and Owen Campbell in leading roles.

While in the small town, they take shelter in an elderly couple’s cabin and began the filming process. However, it’s clear from the beginning that something about their hosts is rather off-beat. As the sky darkens, the crew finds themselves in a fight for their lives.

While the erotic thriller expertly plays with sexuality and introduces original antagonists, the biggest drawback is its lack of intention behind its bloodshed and its sudden tonal shift that leaves no time for anticipation. Should you watch X? Continue reading our review to find out.

What is X about?

Taking place in 1979, X presents a story about sexual awakenings, a glamor-obsessed society, and religious evil. West expertly intertwines these themes while giving into boyish humor and gore. Serving as the director, writer, and editor, his touch bleeds into every scene.

Guiding the story along, West incorporates grainy shots of the incomplete porno and directs his cast to display genuine feelings of distress and concern through their actions, lines, and movements. All of the main characters were incredibly likable, making the eventual hunt a hard pill to swallow.

Snow and Mescudi join the cast as the sometimes-couple Bobby-Lynne and Jackson. The two are the stars of the movie-in-a-movie adult film, and even get to show off their musical talents in an acoustic rendition of Landslide by Fleetwood Mac.

Ortega plays Lorraine, the innocent girlfriend of cameraman RJ, who is played by Campbell. She has an excellent comeuppance during the movie, guided by Ortega’s ability to play quiet and sweet. While oftentimes judgmental, her unpleasant attitude is understandably chalked up to her virginal nature amid the raunchy crew.

Lastly, there’s Mia Goth as Maxine and Martin Henderson as Wayne. The couple has a subtle chemistry driven by Maxine’s desperation to be a movie star and Wayne’s budding aspirations to be a filmmaker — or to just make some quick cash, who really knows?

As the story evolves, the group finds themselves in a nightmarish situation involving the cabin’s owners. Without giving too much away, the hosts reveal their marital issue that desperately needs solving, and it is thrust upon the well-meaning film crew.

film poster for X
Mia Goth stars in Ti West’s latest horror movie. Pic credit: A24

Should you watch X?

X made its world premiere at SXSW 2022 on March 13 to a sold-out audience, and man, did it deliver. Despite its slight drawbacks, the horror flick proved itself to be an entertaining watch. Every minute of the movie enriched the unfolding of the demented story and it didn’t overstay its welcome.

That being said, there were a few major cons: The gore felt meaningless, the movie wasn’t as subversive as its advertising suggested, and it was a bit predictable. X’s most horrific sequences carried little weight and even its most gratuitous stabbing scene will leave horror fans going “meh.”

In refusing to give substantial backstory to its killers, the movie relied too heavily on the ick-nature of older adults in sexual situations to make its audience cringe. Anybody with emotional maturity above the age of a prepubescent boy will find themselves pondering, “what was the point of this?” during numerous scenes.

An expert way to distract from undesirable (and pretty unrealistic) antagonists is to commit to the absurdity of it all, but instead, it felt like the movie didn’t want to be camp. It refused to be camp, and it didn’t follow in the footsteps to be a top-tier slasher. So, despite having a fun viewing experience, this moviegoer left the theater a bit underwhelmed.

Nonetheless, the movie was carried by West’s creative direction, Snow’s brilliant country-girl accent, and its original-enough plot. X may go down as one of the best traditional horror movies released in a while. It was just some people killing people for no reason other than self disillusionment.

Check out our SXSW 2022 reviews of To Leslie and Spin Me Round.

X premieres in theaters on March 18, 2022.

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