X ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Glad to confirm that, as the trailer suggested, this is yet another entry in the A24-distributed "naked old people are scary" cinematic universe.

I don't know. Sure, it's well-shot, well-performed, the colours and production design are lovely; on a technical level, what more could you ask for? As a sleaze-loving pervert, I really do find myself doing a little soul-searching over this movie, because by all means I should love it - it's a splatter film set during a '70s porn shoot with a crazed, horny, pitchfork-wielding old lady who feeds her victims to the gators! Yet, somehow, it never really all comes together. It's a film made up of loose ends, under-developed ideas, and a little too much restraint for its own good. It should work, but it just... doesn't. I don't normally complain about films taking inspiration from older pictures, but it really does feel like all of the best elements of this film were straight-up lifted from something else that I would honestly rather be watching. At what point does a homage just make you want to watch the thing it's homaging instead?

For a film with such wild, depraved, nasty potential in its concept, it's a picture which never quite goes "there"; it never hits those heights of derangement that you would hope for, let alone consistently. I'm a fan of the previous work I've seen from director Ti West, but his previous films such as The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, despite having a reputation as "extreme horror", are honestly quite quiet and laid-back for the most part - and as much as I loved that there, X is not a film which needs to be that subdued. West's comments before the film's release about how modern horror has "gone soft" are definitely a bit rich when you consider that X is only very sparingly as delightfully nasty as it should be. Not to mention, the film's messaging is so muddied that, by the end, I wasn't sure if I liked what the film was trying to tell me; if its "toast to the perverts" wasn't the defiant statement of love that I previously thought, and if its comments on the intimacy of the elderly weren't quite as profound and melancholy as the film wanted them to be. I'm almost certainly guessing that the old couple's sex scene was meant to be uncomfortable and disturbing, given the presentation and music, but in reality I merely found it to be a moment which was sweet, melancholy, and most likely haunting in ways which the filmmakers didn't intend.

That isn't to say that X doesn't have its highlights, though - largely when it reaches the peaks of its insanity and bloodlust. How can I not love a scene where an old lady calls someone a bitch before an alligator bites their head off? However, once again, it just doesn't quite come together as that well-rounded experience of horror and depravity that I so, so want to love. Why was the couple's treatment of their victims so inconsistent? Why did the film not focus at all on the chained-up man in the basement? What makes Pearl's struggles with sexual frustration in old age so compelling if she was already killing people decades before? Why didn't we get more gator-feeding action? Why didn't the film focus more on its bizarre, twisted villains? Who knows, maybe we'll find out in the prequel - which, regardless of my thoughts on X, I can't help but feel excited for. How can I not be a sucker for a 1910s-set female slasher?

It always hurts me to not be able to feel the love for a film, particularly a horror film, that everyone else experiences. There's enough misery and discontent in the world, and I just want to share in the joy out there. Nonetheless, X just didn't really do it for me.

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