September 15, 2022

GENRE | 'X' Marks 'Pearl' – A Killer Origin x TIFF 2022

"I'm gonna show them all."
Mia Goth Ti West | Pearl X
Toronto International Film Festival
Actress Mia Goth (also a co-writer) and horror director Ti West both return to the slasher world of X (released earlier this year) in the blood-soaked, WWI-era origin story, Pearl. As a prequel about one of the previous film's elderly homicidal farmhouse villains in the 1970s also played by Goth in heavy makeup and prosthetics, we see her as a young woman getting the taste for killing.

Shot during the production of X (in New Zealand standing in for rural Texas) and set in 1918 during the Spanish Flu epidemic, the exploitation follow-up explores the origins of the eponymous wide-eyed farm girl evoking early Technicolor influences while also referencing villain-centric classic horror like Hitchcock's Psycho. Goth fully commits to her gonzo lead role desperately focused on seeking fame and a way out of her hard small-town life.

Thanks to the colourful cinematography by Eliot Rockett, Pearl has a decidedly bloody twist on its The Wizard of Oz-type visuals and setting while using early Hollywood tropes to contrast its murderous subject matter. If nothing else, it's a chilling take on the villainous origin story with Goth's truly unhinged performance making you rethink the innocent-looking mousy girl next door stereotype.

West and Goth make their complementary riff to X another slickly-made wild ride. Pearl, as a period piece of another time, ratchets its genre thrills with tons of style and flair so confidently. There's a fun contrast going back in time to the same farm going from '70s grindhouse grime to a bright and shiny idyllic campiness of studio musicals coming out of its silent film era setting—just imagine if a Disney fairytale princess went on a violent rampage.

Pearl screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Midnight Madness program.

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