SXSW 2022: X

Horror or porn or both – the latter seems the direction for X, a new film by director Tim West. West helms this 1979-based horror flick, Grindhouse style, that centers on the filming of a porn movie.  Unlike other more successful offerings in the horror genre, like the terrifying Texas Chainsaw Massacre, X, even with its solid cast, relies far too much on disgusting gore and formulaic horror tropes.

X, not XXX – but X is indeed a film about the ill-fated filming of porno at a remote farm inhabited by a creepy old couple. X follows a group of young filmmakers who rent a rural Texas farmhouse as the location set for a low-budget adult film. They expect to film uninterrupted. Instead, they find an elderly, Bible-thumping, gun-toting pair that does not approve of the group’s sordid purpose. The committed cast includes Scott Mescudi, Mia Goth, and Brittany Snow, and they play their characters well.

As far as slasher films go, X provides ample disgusting blood-letting but falters significantly in attempts at suspense. Stephen Ure and Goth (in a dual role) wearing aging makeup are genuinely vile and despicable as the group’s host. Pearl becomes wildly jealous of the younger women’s sensual, sexy bodies, and she presses Howard to please her. He claims his heart wouldn’t take the strain, and she starts a bloody killing spree out of frustration. Of note, Snow is perfection – her Marilyn Monroe looks, sugary voice, and voluptuous body epitomize porn-queen. She’s blond, though, and we all know what that means.

Aside from its throwback to the grindhouse visual aesthetic, the film fails to provide the requisite scares, suspense, or thrills. Instead, West relies on stock characters and gratuitous gore rather than any remotely refreshing the storyline or twists. As a slasher film, X is mediocre at best, and as porn, well, it is more R than X.  In fairness, though, there are a few genuine laughs and a couple of silly surprises. I wanted to be scared more and repulsed less. I would have chalked up more than two stars for X, but alas, it was simply not that fresh.

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