If you’re a fan of Tobe Hooper—particularly the early trio of films, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Eaten Alive, and The Funhouse—you will fucking love Ti West’s new film, X.
With the setting of Chain Saw, the deliberate pacing of The Funhouse, and the grime and gators of Eaten Alive, West unabashedly revels in the retro, period stylings of yesteryear. Yet, instead of just another tedious genre exercise, the writer-director reconstructs something new and fresh from the castoff body parts of exploitation history.
X is a period piece, like West’s slow-burning 2009 classic, The House of the Devil. But this time, we trade in the 80s setting for the good ole Year of Our Lord 1979, as we follow a group of a filmmakers and actors on their journey to a secluded, rural Texas farm to shoot a skin flick.
Led by Wayne (Martin Henderson perfectly honing in on the archetypal skeezeball porn producer of the era), they rent a guest house from an odd and menacing elderly couple. Wayne’s girlfriend, Maxine (Mia Goth) is a stripper who will stop at nothing to be a star, relying on the powers of coke to get her through the grind. And after the property’s matriarch, Pearl (also played by Goth) spies Maxine in the middle of a sex scene, it awakens a murderous and lustful jealousy, a void created in her by never making it famous as a dancer all those years ago.
So, as you can plainly see, the subtext is right there in the open. It’s not ingenious stuff, but it is just clever enough to enrich the bloodbath that follows and give pathos to everyone involved—including the murderers!
West as a filmmaker has always been reliable. However, where you could say The House of the Devil was made by a young and cocky director, X has all the hallmarks of a mature and confident artist. He doesn’t abandon his preferred, slow-burn narrative approach, but he’s also not afraid to deliver the sensationalism and take giant, creative swings. Most of which pay off.
He's also not afraid to be funny and lean into the absurdity of the situation. And as such, I recommend wholeheartedly that you see this is in a theater with a bunch of people. You will be host to a cacophony of groans, laughs, shifting asses, and cheers. When you emerge, you will emerge brethren of a demented shared experience forged in the fires of Bonkers Ass Shit.
It's been a long, long, long time since someone made a slasher this fun.
X opens in theaters March 18.