X

X ★★★★

80

"I will not accept a life I don't deserve."

X stumbles into the Slasher sub-genre by initially observing their often moralistic methodology. With the setting of a backwoods rural nightmare and the context of an outsider creative team in the porn industry, it doesn't take long before X is going absolutely apeshit with the edit. From split-screens to harsh cuts between what's real and what's photographed, with the 'movie within a movie' offering a fantastical sense of titillation that is consistently uprooted. Ti West understands the difference between the object of our imagined desire and the reality of our own pleasure. But it's not just sex and violence that find an inexorable tension and catharsis here. What follows in the third act is an examination of how these morals take root, with religious fanaticism echoing through the trees, the sound bouncing off against the midnight moon. A likeable ensemble cast of characters soon realize their modern sensibilities are the sole reason for their undoing, and our villains are manifestations of repression. Plodding along, a shotgun in one hand and a flashlight in the other, with preacher's teachings blasting across the airwaves.

X is as patient as it is scary, with West's trademark slow-burn pacing matched with probably his sturdiest, most airtight script. You're in hell before you even notice it. Harkening back to golden-age Slashers, the band of characters aren't quite three-dimensional but they each offer a personality that you're sad to lose. Too often, modern hack and slash fare is determined to rise above the formula, to wink and nudge in the direction of what the filmmakers believe to be fresh and new. X is content with clear, concise direction and a razor-edge balance of the fundamentals. The gore? Practical and sloppy. The sex? Plentiful. But what lingers is how it all unfolds, with a gleeful and knowledgeable appreciation for how these movies work.

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