I love when a horror movie just goes for it. Whatever “it” happens to be for that movie. I love when a movie commits to an idea and goes full bore into it. X is one such movie. I found myself constantly saying, “are they going to do that? They aren’t. Oh they are!” It was creepy and gory, and so much fun.
Set in the 1970’s, this slasher film follows the cast and crew of an X rated film as they set out to a tiny farmhouse to film their dirty movie. However, things start going wrong in the weirdest ways as the owners become aware of what they are up to.
The film was directed by Ti West, who made one of my favorite ghost stories of all time The Innkeepers. It’s a quiet slow burn of a ghost story that has never failed to leave me terrified. He employs the same slow burn here. The first half of the movie left me on edge, wondering where the horror was going to come from. I knew nothing about the movie going in, and I was on the edge of my seat wondering what this movie was going to be. West teases and taunts us with perfectly staged moments of suspense early. He builds a sense of tension and dread throughout the first half until things go very much off the rails. And when it goes off the rails it goes places I never suspected.
I’ve watched a couple of slashers this month, and the ones I enjoy are there ones that put their characters and stories front and center. This movie does a great job of creating compelling characters and putting them in challenging situations that push them to the edge. I don’t like all of these people, but I believe them. I understand them. They have real relationships and interactions. There’s real pathos for these people. When the horror starts, it doesn’t feel like an inevitable Jason or Freddy attack. It feels like these people’s lives are being interrupted. Their stories would have continued in interesting fashion if evil hadn’t taken over the movie. I love the feeling that the characters would exist beyond the edges of the frame.
Once it gets scary though, it gets genuinely frightening. There are a lot of great jolts and slow builds. West knows how to build up the suspense before breaking it with a great jump. I really appreciated that the characters for the most part behave in believable ways. They aren’t always super smart, but they aren’t aggressively dumb. I can relate to their decisions even if I wouldn’t have done the same thing myself.
There’s blood and guts. There are good jolts. There is a deeply unsettling undercurrent to the whole thing. There are scenes I will never forget. This is totally my cup of tea. A
Okay, let’s talk about how crazy this movie is.
So, we have a porno crew shooting a movie in a shed on a farm. They have rented the shed from the elderly couple who own the property. We never see the wife. She is “unwell”. As filming commences the elderly couple become suspicious of what is happening.
That night the director tries to leave. He’s upset after his girlfriend decides to perform in the film. He is stopped by the elderly woman standing in the driveway. He gently tries to get her to move. It’s at this point that I’m saying to myself, “where is this going? She’s an incredibly old woman. There’s no way she’s going to start attacking people. Is this like a demon possession thing?” At that moment, the old lady attacks and murders the director. Out of nowhere! I am shocked and blown away. I can’t believe that the slasher is this ancient woman.
She and her husband then begin murdering each member of the crew in turn. They are religious, but they don’t seem to be doing this because they object to the subject of their film. They seem to be implying that the elderly lady is turned on by the star of the adult film. She develops a fixation with the girl and begins killing everyone else in order to isolate her.
There’s a great scene involving an alligator. We all know it’s coming, because of great foreshadowing, but it’s still a surprise. There’s a tense stand off between the male lead and the elderly man. None of these characters suspect danger from the elderly couple. It’s not like Jason, a hulking man in a mask with a machete. These are unassuming old people. It makes sense that they would let their guard down. The tension comes from whether these people will realize they are in danger before it’s too late.
When it’s just the star and the elderly couple, they begin stalking her around the property. It’s unclear what she wants from her. Do they want to kill her? Nope. Weirder. They want to possess her because she has the X factor. They begin having sex which is just awful because the star is hiding under the bed while these elderly murderers are going at it.
After escaping this situation, there is a final showdown wherein the elderly man is startled by one of their victims who isn’t quite dead. This shock gives him a heart attack and he falls over dead! I couldn’t believe they did that. It’s so surprising and darkly comic that I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or not.
The elderly woman grabs a gun to kill the star, but when she fires the recoil knocks her down and breaks her hip. The movie is again so darkly comic. It turns into a bloody and bizarre life alert commercial for a minute. “Help I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” I can’t believe this movie went there. Once again, this movie shocked and surprised me. I love when a movie can do that. I love when a film goes places I don’t expect. I love that the movie committed to this bizarre course of action. Making the elderly couple the villains. Going full blood and guts. Making a shocking and unsettling story. I was deeply satisfied with this movie, and I look forward to watching it again.