Cert – 18, Run-time – 1 hour 46 minutes, Director – Ti West
When a group of young people hire an out-of-the-way Texas shack to make a pornographic film, the elderly couple who own the building begin to take against their actions, with murderous outcomes.
Over the years there have been plenty of sex-based reasons for killing sprees in slasher flicks. However, perhaps the viewpoint of elderly killers Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (Mia Goth) lies towards the slightly odder end of the scale. The idea that young people shouldn’t have sex because old people can’t. Perhaps it’s not as plain and simple as that, perhaps it’s a matter of frequency and openness; either way, they take against the actions of the group of (mostly) young people who are hiring out the shack just down from their own home as the group use the area to make their own pornographic film. One which will, at least in the eyes of director and cameraman RJ (Owen Campbell), blur the lines between porn and art film, and for older producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), could rival Debbie Does Dallas.
For much of the film we see the group, primarily future porn starlet Maxine (Goth), go about making their film. Occasionally encountering the disgruntled neighbours in-between loud and unashamed sessions of (hopefully) artful adult actions. The build-up is certainly lengthy and takes up most of the 106 minute run-time. However, there’s enough present to keep things going and hold your interest. The visual style and flare of the piece certainly puts you in the 1979 setting, while also helping to capture the feeling of classic 70s slashers. Largely this is down to the strong cinematography of Eliot Rockett, and West’s direction. While the opening puts in mind the obvious calls to the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre there’s luckily enough within X to draw a distance between the two and allow it to not feel like a remake of such.
It’s as the actual killing spree begins that things begin to somewhat dip. Pearl’s murderous streak grows as her husband is unable to meet her sexual wishes and desires due to a heart condition. Therefore killing those who can openly commit such depraved acts – the kind of which is severely frowned upon by that nice, very passionate, preacher on the television – and remind her that she and Howard can’t, is the only option. Much of the spree feels as if it happens all at once. Yet, the feeling of being slightly drawn and spaced out is also present due to the fact that each instance has its own build up and interaction beforehand. The general feeling of the third act is something slightly underwhelming with a number of the key eventual slasher moments feeling as if they just kind of happen and then move on to more build up for another kill.
Despite a good build up, with some effectively ominous suspense every now and then, there’s generally an underwhelming nature to the third act slasher nature of X. Perhaps it’s down to the slightly odder (although certainly nowhere near ridiculous or outlandish) motives of the killers and the scarce proper interaction they’ve had with the central group of aspiring porn-makers up until this point, or even the conflicting drawn-out yet (almost) all-at-once nature of the spree itself. Either way, it causes a dip in your engagement with the film as it goes on. And while luckily it doesn’t form the overall bulk of the piece it certainly feels as if it lasts a little while, particularly as the on-screen screams increase and a handful of inevitable stupid-ideas-in-a-horror-film come into play. Even the visual style kind of falls down as much of the intended horror plays out in the dark of night. And while there’s still a generally watchable nature your attention isn’t held as much as it is in the gradual suspense of the hour or so build-up.
With a strong visual style and ability to lean away from obvious references such as Texas Chain Saw you’re able to engage within X’s gradually unfolding build up. However, as the killing spree begins things dip as substance is lost and the piece slightly goes in circles.