The film “X” takes place in 1979, in Texas. Law enforcement officers, headed by Sheriff Dentler (James Gaylyn), have been called to a grisly crime scene at a secluded farm. A discovery in the basement of the property, makes those who are investigating the crimes wonder just what mayhem took place. From that moment forward, the viewer will learn the events that proceeded the horrific discovery. Wayne, is an aspiring adult film producer, portrayed by Martin Henderson (Virgin River). He has assembled a small group of people, in the hopes that they will help bring his dream of making a great deal of money, in the emerging video tape market, a reality. His plan is to make, for as little money as possible, “The Farmer’s Daughter,” an adult film he’s written. Aiding Wayne is RJ (Owen Campbell), a young, serious minded director, who wants to elevate the simple concept of people having sex on film, and make it more of an artistic movie. His timid girlfriend, Lorraine, played by Jenna Ortega (Scream), helps RJ by recording the sound for the film. The more she watches, however, the more interested she becomes in participating in what is taking place on screen. Wayne’s cast includes his fame seeking girlfriend, Maxine (Mia Goth), who works as a stripper at his club. She is joined by Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), also a stripper in Wayne’s employ, as well as her boyfriend Jackson, a role acted by Grammy winner Scott Mescudi, more commonly known as Kid Cudi.
Wayne, and his cast and crew, take a road trip to an isolated farm in Houston, Texas. There they will shoot the film, unbeknownst to the cantankerous owner, Howard (Stephen Ure). Howard at first greets Wayne, toting a shotgun in his hand. Even after its established that Wayne and company are renting a cabin from him, and not trespassing, (something Howard seems to have momentarily forgotten), he issues a warning that his wife Pearl is not to be disturbed.
After filming commences, Pearl becomes obsessed with the carnality that she is witnessing. She sneaks around, and hides while watching the production being made. She is especially taken for some unknown reason with Maxine. Pearl’s body may be in a state of decline, and her age, as alluded to, has hampered her sex life for many years, but her desire remains intact. She has become so stimulated by what she has witnessed, to the point where she asks Howard to be intimate with her. He outright refuses her request, letting her know that is heart wouldn’t be able to take it. As if Pearl’s actions weren’t strange enough, a television show, which features a televangelist (Simon Prast), is shown during various times throughout the film. The televangelist is preaching to a small, but fervent congregation, who seem mesmerized by his every spoken word. A viewer may wonder, as did I, what is the reason behind showing that particular preacher?
Not long after filming begins, bad things start to happen to everyone involved with the adult film. I won’t go into detail as to the who or why, in order to not spoil it for those of you who would like to see the film. The filmmakers do an excellent job of utilizing the atmosphere of the farm property. In the back of the property, there is a lake in which an alligator resides. The presence of the gator leads to one of the more edge of the seat moments of the film, and should make a viewer wonder: Will this character die or escape with not a moment to spare? The emphasis during the majority of the film is placed on suspense as opposed to jump scares. For those viewers, however, who like their gore, there should be enough included to satiate.
Unlike many of the films that have preceded it with a similar setting, Wayne’s cast and crew, as a collective whole, are not stupid and helpless. For example, Jackson is a veteran who knows how to handle himself. The rest have their wits about them, and are capable, however, the proverbial monster or bad guy that they are dealing with, has the upper hand from the outset.
“X” was written and directed by Ti West (V/H/S). The film premiered on March 13, 2022, at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Parts horror, and thriller, it has a runtime of 115 minutes. “Pearl,” a prequel film, was shot right after “X.” As of the writing of this post, no release date has been given.
Will anyone survive? Is a reason given for the mayhem, other than senseless violence? And the question I asked earlier: Why is the televangelist shown on screen? What purpose does he serve? All of those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.
In closing, Ti West made some bold choices in this film. When I sat down to watch it, I hadn’t read anything about it. All I did know, is that I had seen a number of West’s other films. I am glad I didn’t read anything that gave any of the reveals away, because that would have hampered my surprise at what was taking place. While I did find the film entertaining, the movie was a bit predictable at times; had it not been, it would’ve taken the film to the next level. Overall, I give the filmmakers a good deal of credit, because they show, with their finished product, that they respect their audience, which they had to have known was going to be comprised primarily of horror fans.