The Academy may not recognize excellence in genre films, but you can by casting your vote for the smart, stylish, substantial slasher “X”.
The announcement of a new Ti West movie was cause for celebration in and of itself. One of horror’s most interesting, creative filmmakers, dipping his toes into the slasher sub-genre? Worst case scenario, we knew it would at least be a fascinating watch. But the best-case scenario was that it would become a new horror classic.
But Ti West, man. He zigs when you expect a zag. And he gave us not only a modern classic but the first entry in a franchise that completely revitalized the entire slasher world.
X gave us many unexpected gifts.
We got Brittany Snow singing “Landslide” in an absolutely scene-stealing supporting role, lots of creative kills, a unique and fun plot, and more wang than we traditionally see in horror movies. (Thanks, Ti West, for evening the playing field a little; that’s one penis versus 7 million breasts.).
But most importantly, it gave us Pearl.
Pearl and her surprisingly sympathetic bloodlust gave us something almost wholly unique in the slasher genre: a compelling motive.
X, with its man-eating gator, vigorous sex scenes, and warped sense of humor, has more to say about the dignity we, as a culture, fail to offer our elderly than any prestige movie I’ve seen.
Pearl is the rare female slasher. And though her actions, make no mistake, are absolutely unhinged, they’re not without merit or bases.
The young, nubile actors filming porn on her property remind her of her lost youth and how quickly culture wrote her off as a viable sexual being. Pearl’s murder spree feels like a primal scream. She’s raging not only at the brutal reminders of her own faded youth but at the culture that insists on infantilizing elderly people, reducing them to punchlines.
While Pearl provides the backbone of X, the movie does something many slashers — hell, most horror movies in general — fail to do. It made all of the supporting cast pretty damn likable.
I know that popular wisdom suggests characters that are functionally cannon fodder should be disposable, with little emotional attachment. However, X makes us like these dumb, hot, naked kids. They don’t deserve what happens to them, even if we understand the underlying rage that propels Pearl.
And that, friends, is why X deserves all the awards.
It manages the impressive feat of building emotional stakes, creating an indelible and memorable elderly lady slasher.
(I mean, come on…is there any other geriatric female slasher? Genuine question because I can’t think of one, but, well…even I have some blindspots.)
West populates the film with likable victims, all while giving us something incredibly gory and super fun.
He has an incredible aesthetic eye and finds unique and almost beautiful ways to frame his kills. However, he also fully pauses the movie for a shockingly lovely sequence involving the previously alluded to Brittany Snow’s “Landslide” performance and Pearl attempting to recapture her youth.
It’s not a horror scene; it’s sad and tender. However, it fits perfectly within the horror movie.
X shows the full capacity of slasher films.
Critics and audiences are often reductive about the genre. Despite the staying power of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees, most still view slashers as surface-level, basic entertainment with tight narrative constraints.
X advances what a slasher can be without abandoning the fundamental nasty pleasure of the films.
X wasn’t just a good horror movie, it was an important one.
I’m not a fan of the “elevated horror’ label, and X refuted the idea that you must abandon the blood, guts, and casual fun of imaginative kills to make a cinematic horror film with heart and even a profound message.
It’s a great fucking movie.
A vote for X is a vote for Pearl, and you know… a vote for Pearl keeps you out of a gator’s tummy.
The Angry Princess wrote:
Quite a thing to get hung up on, but we appreciate you bringing the typo to our attention and will get it corrected. Glad the rest of the article resonated, as we’d hate for the overall intent of this great article to get lost due to human error.