It’s clear from the outset of X that it’s heavily inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It certainly leans into that 70s, southern horror vibe, even though nobody shows up wielding a chainsaw.
The movie relies on some standard horror movie tropes while at least trying to go in a different direction with the plot. It is unique in that sense, and I have to give it some credit for that. However, the way it is played out left me wanting more, and better, from the movie.
You have a group in their late teens to early 20s who are out in the country somewhere in Texas. They’re looking to make themselves stars by filming a porno movie in an old secluded guest house. The house is owned by a young couple. No… wait. I mean an extremely old couple in cheap prosthetics. The makeup is weak and you can’t not realize they’re not old.
Mia Goth plays a dual role as both the main character, Maxine, who’s obsessed with becoming a star, and as the old woman, Pearl. The producers seemed to think that if they poured enough old-age makeup onto her you’d never be able to tell the difference. They fail.
She’s encouraged by her boyfriend Wayne (Martin Henderson) who sees dollar signs. He’s only thinking about whoring out Maxine, OnlyFans style, to film this movie. There’s also Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi). I sure hope ‘Hole’ is a porn name.
Bobby-Lynne is your typical sex-positive free spirit. Jackson, her apparent boy-toy, is a former Marine who just wants to bang around as much as possible while still young.
While they’re just looking to screw on film and become famous doing it, the movie’s director and cameraman, RJ (Owen Campbell), is looking to make porn respectable. He thinks porn can be more than just dirty movies for fapping. He’s accompanied by his girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), until she decides she wants to slide into the movie’s DMs.
The elderly couple reluctantly let the group stay at the house, but when they find out what is being filmed they take a… different approach than you would expect.
You’d think that X taking place in the late 70s, in the Bible-thumping south, the old couple would find young people filming porn in their barn to be not very respectable.
However, it seems Pearl is obsessed, much like Maxine, with beauty and youth. She wishes she still had both of those and is sad and depressed those days are long gone. The movie needs this to send her into some kind of rage, but this is never really convincing. I can only assume Goth thought the best way to play an old woman was to think of herself as a mummy, shuffling around.
The old man Howard (Stephen Ure) wasn’t much better. They could have got actual old actors for the roles and then at least it wouldn’t have pulled me out of the movie with how fake the old characters were.
Old people in horror movies are generally not scary, so maybe it didn’t much matter how those characters were played. I can understand some people finding old folks creepy. I think that’s part of human nature, and has to do with our own fear of growing old, however that doesn’t make them scary to deal with.
Iconic characters in horror movies have gotten bigger over time. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Leatherface were always big, but they’ve become larger than life now. Literally. They’re scary, intimidating, and fill us with fear.
Compare that to an old couple in their mid to late 80s shuffling around at night, seemingly lost and confused. The movie tries to build tension, but when you know the antagonist is just an old person, it makes it difficult to let your imagination run wild.
All of the other characters are actually acted well enough. They are typical horror movie fodder and make stupid decisions throughout, but at least the actors took the characters and made them at least believable.
X does have some dark humor that I semi enjoyed, but it was overshadowed by the sillier aspects that just didn’t fit in with the overall tone of the movie. It feels as if the movie may have worked better if it was less serious.
Take the second Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While I didn’t like it much myself, it was silly and that tone worked for the movie overall. Maybe they should have taken that approach here.
The movie has a great style to it, but that feels largely borrowed. It worked well with Texas seemingly stuck in the 70s. However, fans of horror movies are too willing to accept subpar movies and at the end of the day, X isn’t at all scary. It tries to compensate for this with buckets of blood. This is unfortunate because we deserve better and should expect better from our horror movies. It’s a shame.