In March 2020, Ti West made the 1970’s horror-inspired film ‘X.’ It is a movie that is inspired by movies like ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ Others will be reminded of Paul Thoman Anderson’s ‘Boogie Nights.’ A group of young people choose to make a pornographic film in a farmhouse owned by an elderly couple. The film is not for the faint of heart. However, those who have a strong interest in the slasher genre will succumb to its homage to 1970s grindhouse flair and the social commentary on sexuality and youth. The movie also contains a powerful score by Tyler Bates and experimental goth rock musician Chelsea Wolfe. ‘X’ captures how a murdering couple Pearl and Howard envied the youthful filmmakers who take advantage of their youth by having hardcore sex with each other. Pearl became so envious, she and Howard decided to kill the young adults one by one. Mia Goth played Maxine, the survivor of the massacre that occurred in the farmhouse.
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Expanding the ‘X’ Universe
Now in this prequel, Mia Goth plays a younger version of Pearl, who is now the leading title character of the same. The prequel demonstrates why Pearl became the murdering psychopath that she is in Ti West’s first installment of the series. Just like the first movie, it is not for the squeamish since it is heavy on gruesome violence and sexual content. Unlike the first movie, the prequel focuses on the character study of how a female became the villain for its predecessor.
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Mia Goth takes it upon herself to not only perform the character. She also co-wrote the film with the director himself. Cinephiles will find it interesting since she played a victim in ‘X,’ who had her youth being envied by Pearl, one of the two elderly couples and villains of the movie. It is very interesting how she now plays the younger version of the character. The prequel takes place in 1918, almost at the end of the first World War. The viewers learn that Pearl has a strong desire to leave her farm life in Texas. Just like any aspiring dreamer, they fantasize about a better life by watching the cinema and being fascinated with stories that have exciting lives. As soon as Pearl leaves the cinema, she is faced with a reality that is not to her liking. She is the daughter of two immigrants of German descent. She takes care of her paralyzed father and is left in charge to maintain the farm. She does this because her controlling mother tells her to. Her husband Howard is serving his time as a soldier overseas.
Pearl’s life is not very exciting. She hides from her reality by watching the cinema and abusing her father’s medication to numb her feelings about her humdrum and depressing life. Some of her characteristics will remind others of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in ‘Joker,’ since it deals with a character study on how one’s perspective on one’s reality will make the person murder individuals to their disliking. However, she falls in love with the cinema’s projectionist and plans to pursue a romantic relationship with him. In addition, she aspires to become a dancer for a traveling troupe because it was recommended by Pearl’s sister-in-law, Mitzy. Now the audiences know that she is looking forward to making her life more exciting.
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Mia Goth’s Performance
Mia Goth does an exquisite job of portraying the younger version of Pearl. Just like in the film ‘Joker,’ the audiences feel sympathy for the antiheroes who were being chastised by the people that think they know them too well. As the viewers see Pearl handling the realities of her life, they cannot help but feel sorry for her. Ti West has made a film that deals with mental illness and how one can be the victim of it if it is exacerbated by individuals who aren’t fully sympathetic or empathetic to the protagonist. Films such as ‘Black Swan,’ ‘Taxi Driver,’ and ‘Monster’ that get easily nominated because it draws attention to stories that are not easy to digest due to a portrayal of difficult character that is held back because of their mental illness. In my opinion, ‘Pearl’ falls into that category. However, it is very rare that a slasher film can get nominated for an Oscar. Nonetheless, it would make me happy if Mia Goth received at least an Oscar nomination for her performance.
Members of the Academy should not be too biased about the film because of the horror/slasher genre. Just like comic book-based films, Joaquin Phoenix and Heath Ledger’s performances as their different takes on the Joker character had drawn attention to the Academy. Their phenomenal performances have eliminated the biases of the portrayal of comic book characters. Hopefully, this movie will remove any prejudice with the fact that slasher films do not get nominated. Ti West and Mia Goth have established a good character study that successfully portrayed Pearl’s downward spiral. It is also rare that a slasher film would take place during the First World War. The movie is a fresh take and a great addition to horror filmmaking. Mia Goth’s performance will not be forgotten. Her five-minute monologue will leave the audience speechless.
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‘Pearl’ Sequel in the Works
Ti West and Mia Goth have done justice to how they expanded their newly-made horror franchise which was released the same year. There is also another film in the works. ‘MaXXXine’ will be the third installment of their series. It will take place in 1985 and will focus on the only remaining survivor of ‘X’. Perhaps it will be another character study like ‘Pearl.’ Only time will tell how Mia Goth and Ti West would like to expand their next ‘X’ film. I find it very interesting that A24 films have already greenlit the project.
Written and directed by Ti West
Special guest writer – Mia Goth
Produced by Jacob Jaffke, Ti West, Kevin Turen, and Harrison Kreiss
Starring Mia Goth
By Marco Castaneda
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