The 1970s were a great time for horror movies as filmmakers started to push the boundaries of what can be shown in a film – from gore to taboo topics like sex and drugs. Thus, the grindhouse and exploitation genre gave us classics such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Suspiria,” and “I Spit On Your Grave.”
Ti West’s “X” is a homage to the genre and time period where it all started. The movie follows a group of filmmakers staying on a farm in rural Texas to shoot a porno, but something is off about the strictly conservative elderly couple who owns the farm, and the group finds themselves fighting for their lives.
The cast includes musician Kid Cudi, Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, Owen Campell, Stephen Ure, and Jenna Ortega, returning to the silver screen in her role as the film’s scream queen. Ortega has most recently been seen in other horror titles like “Scream 5” and “Studio 666,” just to name a few. Her casting choice as Lorraine, the stereotypical innocent girl of the group, is both perfect and surprising given her character’s development as a friendly, entirely Christian girl who progressively becomes more fascinated by the group’s nature towards sex and porn.
Being a movie about sex and violence, the film doesn’t shy away from talking about taboo topics such as the enjoyment of casual sex and going against society’s values on sex and relationships. Even if seen as socially unacceptable, in the face of death, it’s better to do what truly makes you happy than live unhappily off the values of others, which seems to be the film’s underlying message – a message that was relevant back in the 70s and still holds up pretty well today.
But the real fun stuff about this movie is the violence and scares. It has been a while since a film has felt truly scary. “X” seemingly managed to successfully pull every sort of scare tactic in horror from start to finish, from jump scares, to the gore effects, to visuals and the establishment of an uneasy atmosphere. In terms of style, the film bears a resemblance to iconic horror movies such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Psycho,” “Friday the 13th,” “The Shining,” and “Alligator.” “X” also uses elements from other well-known period dramas like Hardcore and Boogie Nights, and pornographic films from the ‘70s, including “Debbie Does Dallas,” and Andy Warhol’s “Blue Movie.”
A24’s “X” has a little something to disturb everyone to their core. Even the editing style feels very ‘70s inspired and is as trippy as it is scary. Scenes that don’t have a lot going on at surface level still feel tense, making for a good build-up. This movie should be seen in theaters while it still can.