featured Film Review

Origin of Evil: A TIFF Review of ‘Pearl’

September 13, 2022Ben MK

Whether it's A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th or Halloween, sequels and the horror genre go hand in hand, with iconic villains like Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers keeping moviegoers coming back for more, as they defy the law of diminishing returns over and over again. Now, it's director Ti West's turn to get in on the action, as he brings the second installment in his X movie universe to the big screen, with X star Mia Goth once again returning in the lead role.

Simply titled Pearl, this gleefully gory prequel tells the story of a woman named Pearl (Goth), whom viewers might remember as the homicidally insane senior citizen from the first film. This time, however, the year isn't 1979, but rather 1918, and Pearl isn't a decrepit golden ager, but rather a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young woman with big dreams. An aspiring movie star who longs to be in the very same moving pictures she sneaks away from her family's farm to see, Pearl would do anything for that life — the life that she thought would be hers before her well-to-do husband, Howard (Alistair Sewell), left her behind to fight in the war. But underneath all those innocent aspirations and doe-eyed longing lurks something decidedly more twisted, murderous and sinister. Suffice to say, once Pearl begins to give in to those evil temptations, she soon finds herself unable to control her bloodthirsty desires. And not even her parents (Tandi Wright and Matthew Sunderland), her sister-in-law (Emma Jenkins-Purro) or her favorite theater's projectionist (David Corenswet) will be able to escape her wrath.

Evoking visions of The Wizard of Oz and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, what follows is that rare exception to the general rule of thumb concerning horror sequels. Instead of merely duplicating its predecessor, Pearl manages to set itself apart and surpass it. And with a third chapter, titled MaXXXine, on the way, fans of this burgeoning franchise can rest assured that there'll be plenty more blood-soaked carnage to look forward to.

Pearl screens under the Midnight Madness programme at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 41 min.

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