X (2022) Movie Review - What Am I Missing?

Horror | 106 Min
Cover from Ti West's horror movie X (2022)
  • Director: Ti West
  • Actors: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, Scott Mescudi
  • Writers: Ti West
  • Producers: Ti West, Jacob Jaffke, Kevin Turen, Harrison Kreiss
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Violence, Nudity, Gore, Language, Sexual Content, Drugs
  • Horror | 106 Min

In 1979 a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas but when their reclusive elderly hosts catch them in the act the crew find themselves fighting for their lives.

Welcome to Knockout Horror and to our review of Ti West’s X from 2022. Obviously this movie is a couple of years old now. The prequel, Pearl, has already released and MaXXXine is in the cinema as we speak. I haven’t checked out any of these movies so I figured it was about time we caught up on the entire X movie series. You can check out our review of Pearl by following the link. Spoiler alert, it was a lot more positive than this one. And you can also take a look at our MaXXXine review right here.

X follows the story of an adult film making team heading out to the middle of nowhere to shoot a movie. After renting a house on the property of an elderly couple. The team get to shooting. The only problem is, they didn’t tell the owners of the house the reason for why they are renting it. And when they find out, they are going to be less than pleased.

A Lot of Hype

I went into this movie with a fair bit of excitement. I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t think the name Ti West being attached to a movie is any reason to get too excited. I mean, he made Innkeepers which I enjoyed and House of the Devil which was a fun bit of style over substance. But as far as his horror movies go, he is, generally, batting fairly average. 

Screenshot from Ti West's horror movie X (2022)

A lot of people hated Innkeepers. It was very much a movie made for, and by, Millennials and it seems that everyone outside of that group doesn’t really get it. It is quite “random” in parts, after all. The Sacrament was okay, I suppose. House of the Devil is watchable but I also can’t forget that he is responsible for the shockingly poor Cabin Fever 2, the second worst segment in V/H/S and, potentially, the worst segment in ABCs of Death. The less said about his earlier efforts and his collection of shorts the better.

So Ti West was the least of my reasons to be excited about X and its follow ups. It was the interesting late 70’s style, decent cast and Mia Goth that had me highly anticipating this film. How long has it been since we had some good old fashioned psycho-biddy horror as well? After all, if there is one thing that Ti West does well it is capturing an era in his filmmaking. Oh, and repeatedly referencing other horror movies and winking at the camera. He does that well too. 

An Ode to an Era

Despite the above elements that had me hyped being present and accounted for. I didn’t find myself enjoying this movie a whole lot. It really didn’t do much for me aside from confirm that there are a few things about Ti West’s filmmaking that I just don’t vibe with. Let’s talk about the positives first because, to be fair, there are quite a few of them.

Screenshot from Ti West's horror movie X (2022)

X is an ode to late 70’s horror and the influences are very clear. This is a love letter to Tobe Hooper and, in that respect, West has absolutely nailed it. Just like he did in House of the Devil; West has created a movie that you could genuinely believe was dragged right out of that era. Despite being filmed in the more modern 1.90:1 widescreen aspect ratio. There is enough grain and dirt to make the visuals fit with the era.

Technically Well Made

Clothing, set design and makeup all feel accurate to the era. Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe’s score is fantastic, a real highlight of the film. There’s a gritty orange hue bathing every scene and there is shot after shot of authentic exploitation horror goodness.

Dozens of references to movies like Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other classics litter the movie. And the whole thing feels like a real ode to what made horror of that generation so damn good. This feels every part like a movie that would have been made in the 70s as a form of rebellion against the buttoned up, stuffy, norms of everyday life. Throw in a decent amount of gore and you have a good foundation for a horror movie.

Screenshot from Ti West's horror movie X (2022)

I, obviously, have to mention the acting. Mia Goth is playing a dual role as both the adult film star Maxine and the old lady Pearl. She does fantastic, for the most part, though her accent slips pretty often. Especially when she is playing Pearl. The addition of old age to her voice made her almost indiscernible at points. Though sound production, as a whole, is a major weak point of the movie. Jenna Ortega is decent in a rather understated role. Would You Rather’s Brittany Snow was a lot of fun as Bobby-Lynne and Martin Henderson is a real highlight as Wayne. I felt like Kid Cudi was the weakest cast member, sounding a bit wooden in parts.

What I Didn’t Like

I can never shake the feeling that many of Ti West’s films are short movies stretched like taffy into feature length presentations. There is just so much preamble and bullshit leading up to the actual horror. It was the same in The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, though Innkeepers doesn’t suffer as much because Sara Paxton’s character is so likable.

Screenshot from Ti West's horror movie X (2022)

I am not taking shots at a horror movie having a story. I am a huge fan of slow paced, story heavy, horror. It’s just that the story here is so thin on the ground. West manages to drag out a bunch of adult film stars making an adult film into a one hour ordeal. There is very little else going on in that time frame. The antagonist’s motivations aren’t being established. We are going to need a prequel for that. Characters aren’t being developed and tension isn’t being built. It is one hour of nothing.

The action doesn’t start until we are 60 minutes in and then it is a straight sprint to the finish. When you throw in West’s constant winking at the camera and over dependence on copious amounts of needles exposition, it gets a bit tiring. It wouldn’t be so bad if everything wasn’t so damn predictable. Every kill is projected from miles away. They aren’t all that creative and they really aren’t particularly shocking, either. The shock value, altogether, in X is very much of a teen appropriate level. Awkward sex scenes, a few pairs of tits here and there and a dong shrouded in shadow. It’s all fairly insignificant and nowhere near as shocking as actual exploitation movies from the era.

Style Over Substance

Certain scenes made me physically cringe. West is cheesy to an almost painful degree. A certain scene towards the end accompanied by a voice on the television shouting “Divine Intervention” was pretty awful. But when followed later by the quote “Well, by the looks of everythin’, I’d say one goddamn fucked up horror picture.” in reference to a recovered video tape. I nearly passed out from how hard my eyes rolled. It’s bad enough that West feels the need to constantly foreshadow every event and explain every little last thing without all the awkward winks to the camera.

Screenshot from Ti West's horror movie X (2022)

I just don’t get the hype. I really wanted to but I just don’t get it. Sure, the movie is fantastically stylish and technically brilliantly made. But, beneath that veneer, this is just another formulaic horror movie with some fairly dull kills, a paper thin plot and far too much exposition.

Interestingly enough, the release of MaXXXine has sparked renewed interest in X. And my fiancée spotted a few people discussing it on the horror reddit. Someone there had the temerity to say they didn’t enjoy it and were immediately met with downvotes galore. Classic, prime Reddit right there. You are allowed an opinion unless it is different from the one decided on by the echo chamber. What a disappointment but definitely not a surprise.

Should You Watch X?

Clearly this movie appeals to many. If you are just looking for a stylish horror movie with a bit of a gore, a few boobs, a light plot and a slightly atypical (if you have never been exposed to Psycho-biddy horror before) antagonist. You should probably watch X. It just wasn’t for me. It was, in traditional Ti West style, an hour of boring story for thirty minutes of uninspired and predictable kills. The exposition, foreshadowing and winks at the camera are nauseating and the “story” is incredibly thin on the ground. Still, this is a stylish, well acted, and well made movie so your mileage may vary. 

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