July 4, 2024

GENRE | The 'MaXXXine' Factor – Mia Goth Slashes 1980s Sleaze

"[It's] a B-movie with A-movie ideas."
Mia Goth Ti West | MaXXXine A24
A24 / VVS Films
British scream queen Mia Goth and indie filmmaker Ti West reteam for the disappointing third entry in their X horror trilogy. Set in both the adult and mainstream film world of 1980s Hollywood excess, MaXXXine follows up Pearl's origin as a direct sequel to the "Texas Porn-Shoot Massacre" murders from the first film. Goth reprises her eponymous role as the fame-hungry starlet on the verge of her big break while trying to evade the paranoia of the Night Stalker and a possible copycat killer in 1985 Los Angeles.

While X (1970s) and Pearl (1910s) ably subverted slasher genre expectations by playing on its period exploitation material, Maxxxine mostly plays into our preconceptions before a third act turn that reveals the truth behind the central stalker murder mystery that's entirely underwhelming without any real stakes for audiences. Goth as Maxine Minx has nowhere to go aside from her determined ambition in her second at-bat as the character and third overall in the series.

Key to making West's sequel at all worthwhile is the stellar cast featuring Elizabeth Debicki as the stone-cold film director, Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale as a pair of woeful stereotypes of LAPD detectives, Giancarlo Esposito as Maxine's loyal agent and Kevin Bacon as possibly the sleaziest P.I. ever seen. Everything tries to fit the usual grindhouse arc yet, much like the decade of the '80s itself, the film ends up feeling empty and hollow without any substance despite a fun, glossy exterior.

Maxxxine barely gets by on its pastiche of grimy mid-'80s slasher genre sleaze with amusing satanic overtones of the religious occult. It borrows heavily from notably horror classics, being partially set on the Universal Studios backlot, while only ever teasing then quickly dropping any giallo stylistic influences. West overreaches and never clears the cinematic bar beyond its trashy, cheap thrills from an indulgent visual aesthetic. After the third time around, nothing is nearly as fresh as the first two tries.

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