REVIEW: “X” – A solid GOOD slasher movie?


X is currently playing in theaters

Ben Kaiser, News Editor

When you think slasher films, most will think of Freddy Krueger, wielding a razor-blade glove and shouting out bad puns. Or they think of Jason, wearing a hockey mask and always looking soaked for some reason. Maybe they think of the killer doll Chucky or Hellraiser’s Pinhead. Now, a new killer is entering the slasher genre, exhibiting a new fear for this generation: old people.

“X” is directed by Ti West. West is known for writing and directing horror films. Many of them, like “The Innkeepers,” “The House of the Devil,” and “The Sacrament,” were well received and had many favorable reviews. That is a hard feat to get for a lot of horror films.

“X” stars Mia Goth (“A Cure for Wellness”) as Maxine Minx, Jenna Ortega (Netflix’s “You”) as Lorraine, Martin Henderson (“The Ring”) as Wayne Gilroy, Brittany Snow (“Pitch Perfect” films) as Bobby-Lyne, Owen Campbell (“As You Are”) as RJ Nichols, and musician Scott Mescudi/Kid Cudi as Jackson Hole. Stephen Ure (“The Lord of the Rings” & “The Hobbit”) plays Howard, one of the elderly killers, and Goth plays the other old killer, Pearl.

The slashing began all the way back in 1979. A film crew rents out a boarding cabin in the middle of You’re-All-Gonna-Die-Ville, rural Texas. However, the film crew fails to mention to the elderly landowners that they’re working on an adult film using their cabin and the barn as film sets (like you do). The much conserved (devout, rigid) couple becomes enraged by the youngsters, but everyone takes a breather and has a civilized conversation. The film crew admits to their wrongdoings, shake hands, and heads home. Everyone is happy and wiser from the unfortunate experience.

Naaah, just kidding. This is a slasher film, so there’s going to be a lot of killings and a hell of a cleanup job for the local police afterward.

Well, I gotta say, this was actually a good slasher film. I know that’s hard to believe, and it may be illegal to say, but I really enjoyed this. I’ve seen a lot of slashers, from “The Nightmare on Elm Street” to “Hellraiser.” While I enjoy them as a guilty pleasure, I am well aware of how bad they are. It’s almost rudimentary for them to suck. They’re usually just filled with random acts of gore, blood, and topless women; sometimes all in one scene.

Slashers tend to get a bad rep. Since the ‘70s, there have been more horror franchises than I care to count. They range from hockey-mask-wearing brutes killing horny teenagers, killer dolls with puns, and cannibalistic chainsaw-wielders. Usually, they’re poorly written and poorly acted, resulting in fans mostly watching them for the gore, ridiculous kill scenes, and gratuitous nude scenes.

So what makes “X” a good slasher movie over the usual ones?

I have two thoughts as to why. The first thing is the killings. It’s a must for slashers; people gotta die. But slashers have been trying to outdo every movie with more over-the-top deaths. Examples can be impaling victims on deer trophies, face dissolving in a vat of acid, or getting electrocuted in a pool of your own blood. Yes, those are real deaths in slashers.

On the other hand, the deaths from “X” are fundamentally basic and simple kills. Most are killed from stabbings, shootings, and even a big alligator. There’s nothing goofy or elaborate with these kills, and this helps keep the movie grounded. I mean, both killers are very old individuals, so they wouldn’t be able to do anything crazy without making it silly.

And the simple kills are pretty effective, especially the alligator kill scene, as silly as that might sound.

The camera work in this film is done really well. Many distant shots give that strong feeling of isolation. In an earlier scene, Minx is swimming in the lake and gets out just before the alligator can swim toward her. It’s a tense overhead shot and works really well.

There is a weird transition that I have never seen: two separate scenes flashing back and forth before settling on the new scene. It’s a bit jarring, and not sure what its point is.

The other reason is the killers themselves. The film takes time to actually give these characters some actual character, especially Pearl. Her character’s mental health is deteriorating, and she wanders around confused. She also struggles with the reality of old age and envies the younger people with their youth and beauty. She wants to feel like that again and even tries to flirt with them. Their disgust and rejection push her into killing mode and start the film’s massacre.

Pearl’s reasoning and character depth are not something you’d see in popular slashers. Freddy just likes killing children, and Jason just kills trespassers. Michael, Chucky, Pinhead, and Leatherface are all just psychos who kill people just to kill people. So making these two psychos sound like actual humans is a fresh take on the genre.

During the film, I had a strong feeling that there was more to these old killers. I was expecting a reveal that they’re murderous convicts who have been hiding out forever in this part of Texas.

So while the smut film side story is there to satisfy the sex that slasher film fans demand, there is an actual point and reason for it in the film. No, not just for the boobs. There’s a similarity between slasher/horror films and porn. Both are made for mainly one purpose, which overshadows anything else, such as acting, scriptwriting, camera work, or logic.

The adult film crew has a director dedicated to making a porno that will be the greatest adult film ever (ambitious). He wants great camera work, acting, and writing so that his film will be set apart from the rest. I see “X” in this same viewpoint. It’s a horror slasher that is setting itself apart from the genre, with good acting, writing, and tense shots.

Weirdly, porn is being used to show that comparison, but there you go.

Also, a random note, gas was 65 cents a gallon in 1979! That makes today’s gas prices all the more depressing.

“X” is definitely a win for horror fans. It utilizes a lot of inspiration from older franchises, like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but it kept the good stuff while deviating from the bad stuff. West’s work has really made this film enjoyable to watch, and I want to look for his earlier work now.

After the credits, there’s a teaser trailer for the prequel, “Pearl.” Evidently, the filmmakers have been working on it along with “X.” I didn’t see a release date or year for it yet.

“X” is currently playing in theaters.