This prequel to X is a different beast all together. It steps away from the scuzzy slasher elements of X and instead focuses on the psychological terror of an unstable person slowly losing their mind.

The movie introduces us to Pearl, played by Mia Goth. She is a dreamer who lives on a remote farm with her oppressive parents in 1918. She dreams of a life far away on stage or screen. She considers herself a star in the making. Her mother is a religious woman who treats her brutally. Her father succumbed to Spanish Flu and lives in a near catatonic state at all times. She has a husband off fighting in WWI. She performs dance numbers from movies for the farm animals. However, she reveals a darkness in her when one of their ducks gets out of line. She brutally murders it with a pitchfork and feeds it to the gator that lives in the nearby pond. And she only gets worse from there.

The film looks incredible. They emulated the bright technicolor qualities of early movies like The Wizard of Oz which creates a lush color palette, but it also makes everything appear a little unreal. The colors are too vibrant, and the world appears a little fantastical to emulate Pearl’s warped vision. I love the look of this film.

There are some great scenes that are dripping with tension as characters interact with Pearl not realizing how far gone she really is. They don’t understand at first that she’s dangerous. They don’t realize that they should be careful around her. As they carry on as if everything is normal, we the audience know that they really just need to shut up if they want to live. It’s a great suspenseful movie. It has some slasher elements and some good blood and guts, but it’s really a slow burn suspense story.

It’s also a showcase for Mia Goth. She co wrote the film with director Ti West, and she gave herself some juicy scenes to play. She brings a nuance and depth to her performance that is incredibly engaging. She created a maybe five minute monologue in which she breaks down and details her entire life of warped thinking and evil deeds. She just pours emotion onto the screen in a desperate attempt at understanding. It’s an incredible scene. She is so authentic in this role. She lends Pearl so much pathos that I wanted to be on her side even as she goes off the edge. The movie totally got me on her side and on the side of monster is an interesting place to be.

They have a follow up to X coming soon again written by West and Goth and directed by West. These last two films have been surprising and wildly entertaining horror. I can’t wait to see where these two go next.

This is my cup of tea. A-

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