March 14, 2022

GENRE | A 1970s Porno Slasher Throwback – The Se-'X'-Factor

"Ain't none of them nice girls."
Jenna Ortega Ti West | X Movie A24
A24 / VVS Films
Indie filmmaker Ti West uses 1970s erotic imagery to deconstruct the horror genre in his clever and sexually charged slasher exploitation flick simply titled X about a group of would-be amateur filmmakers making a low-budget pornographic movie on a remote Texas farmhouse. How its sense of period cinematic style meets the burgeoning porn industry's influence makes for a sophisticated yet grimy riff on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Starring Mia Goth, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Jenna Ortega, Owen Campbell, and Scott Mescudi as the aforementioned amateur movie crew, the cast fully brings a nice 1979 throwback vibe of fun and seediness before the anxious dread settles in when they arrive at the creepy rural shoot location.

Goth's innocent-seeming bad girl starlet demeanour mixed with Henderson's good ol' cowboy jives well with Snow's entertaining blonde bombshell performance. Everyone plays their part to a tee to build their characters up before the unexplained killings start. Campbell's cinephile wannabe auteur enthusiasm adds to the film production's modest ambitions while Ortega's mousey good girl gaffer fleshes out the ragtag group.

We see several pornographic scenes being shot and they feel real, titillating, and cinematic. X's mixture of exploitation and genre-bending filmmaking makes its atmosphere seem authentically realized. There's an intimacy to the one-day, almost single-location setting. Full of wicked tension and shocking humour, the gore is earned and builds with stakes and a commitment to the entire aesthetic.

West bends genre and patiently unfolds X as basically one-half an erotic comedy about making a dirty movie and the other half featuring all the usual slasher kills set in a fairly typical horror setup. Still, its underlying obsession with youth and aging adds to the eerie thrills. It's actually fun seeing both the sexy fun and violent action when the two halves meet in the middle.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Polygon

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