featured Film Review

SXSW Review: ‘X’

March 15, 2022Ben MK

Every film genre has its tropes, but arguably none enjoy revelling in those tropes more than horror filmmakers. From such clichés as the group of young people who take an ill-advised detour to the concept of the reclusive rednecks who lie in waiting for their unsuspecting prey, horror movies are chock-full of familiar situations viewers have seen time and time again. And in X, director Ti West embraces the hell out of all of them, as he tells the story of a group of people who set out to make an adult film in the outskirts of a small town, but who end up running afoul of a retired couple with a sinister secret.

The year is 1979, and entrepreneurial x-rated movie director Wayne (Martin Henderson) has recruited his wannabe actress girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth), porn star Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), her off-and-on boyfriend Jackson (Scott Mescudi), camera man RJ (Owen Campbell) and his conservative-minded girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) to help him make what he hopes will be his own Debbie Does Dallas. Hopping into Wayne's van, the six embark on a road trip that will take them from Houston, Texas deep into America's Bible Belt, where Wayne has made an arrangement with an extremely decrepit senior citizen named Howard (Stephen Are) to rent out the small house on his property. Little does Howard realize that Wayne and company are actually planning on shooting their skin flick there. And when they step foot onto the isolated rural property, where Howard lives with his equally frail-looking wife Pearl, it spells the beginning of a long and terrifying night — one that will no doubt conclude in violence and bloodshed, as the group discovers what kind of punishment they will suffer for their sins of the flesh.

A clever and creepy exploration of the universal fear of getting old that happens to unfold within the context of a grindhouse horror picture, the result is sure to get under the skin of audiences, not to mention arouse the interest of those looking for some old-school scares. What makes X so compelling, however, is how it successfully blends the slow-burning suspense of an M. Night Shyamalan film with the visceral and blood-splattered thrills of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not since The Visit have the elderly been so downright terrifying.

X screens under the Midnighters section at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 45 min.

You May Also Like