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X is an early contender as one of the best horror movies of the year. Writer/director Ti West brings a 1970s-era slasher that is gory, exciting, and ridiculously fun. X is a huge crowd pleaser that delivers exactly what its audience will be expecting but does so with a vibrancy that won’t soon be forgotten.

‘X’ looks at pornography as a get-rich-quick scheme

'X' Owen Campbell as RJ, Brittany Snow as Bobby-Lynne, Mia Goth as Maxine, Scott Mescudi as Jackson, and Jenna Ortega as Lorraine. walking in grass with a house in the background
L-R: Owen Campbell as RJ, Brittany Snow as Bobby-Lynne, Mia Goth as Maxine, Scott Mescudi as Jackson, and Jenna Ortega as Lorraine | A24

The year is 1979. Wayne (Martin Henderson) and his group head into a rural part of Texas to film a pornographic film. Crew members RJ (Owen Campbell) and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) and cast members, Maxine (Mia Goth), Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson (Scott Mescudi) all have their own motives going into this movie.

X finds the group renting a cabin on the property of an elderly couple. However, the owners have no idea that they plan on filming an adult film on their property. The group must fight for their lives against the couple when they realize the real reason why this group of young folks came out from the city.

Writer/director Ti West is a slasher with a statement to make on age

X begins with a gruesome crime scene, although the audience only gets a very brief glimpse. West quickly jumps back 24 hours to show how the rural property ended up covered in blood. Each member of the group wants to make the adult film for different reasons. Some want to make it big as a star, while others believe that this “independent film” will launch them into a more serious world of filmmaking. Meanwhile, Wayne simply wants money.

The American Dream remains a big part of X. The characters interpret the concept in different ways and are willing to do anything to achieve it. Religion is a consistent piece of subtext woven throughout the movie. The few television sets in X feature a televangelist preaching about the evil in the younger generations.

The generational criticism on television is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to West’s message on age. X finds its characters living life to the fullest, believing that they can only have sex when they’re young. They want to enjoy their youth, which greatly contrasts with the elderly couple’s way of life. As a result, they don’t plan on letting them leave.

‘X’ is a gory blast from the past

'X' Scott Mescudi as Jackson holding his head back wearing sunglasses
Scott Mescudi as Jackson | A24

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West perfectly captures the 1979 aesthetic. X feels like a movie yoinked right out of the time period. He tips his hat to movies like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with the protagonists’ van passing roadkill on their way to the cabin, but a much more gruesome one that hints to the viewer what they’re in for. Eliot Rockett’s cinematography superbly transports the audience to another time in the genre’s history.

X brings along a phenomenal cast that understands the assignment. Goth and Ortega are particular standouts, bringing the horror nuances from the past and mixing them with the present scream queen. Meanwhile, Snow brings a comedic spin to Bobby-Lynne that balances the film out nicely, along with Henderson’s performance that instantly brings Matthew McConaughey to mind.

West approaches the subject of amateur pornography in a fascinating way. He’s uncompromising in his perspective on both male and female sexualities. However, he creates an exceptional balance between each element of the film. This is the type of old-fashioned theater experience that expects its audience to react in big ways between its scares, humor, and gross-out moments. X is a blood-soaked throwback with no shortage of fervor.