X (2022) and its Prequel Predecessor, Pearl
X was a heavy-hitter this year in the world of horror; it had glowing reviews and a fresh take on an old premise: Texas, creepy house with creepier inhabitants, slash slash dead dead, blood, gore-the works. What X (2022) was able to do that was novel and different from its own predecessors but also draw from them was switch up the story: we have a murderous, horny, bisexual grannie who kidnaps men and woman for her personal pleasure as the main antagonist, and she wants Maxine because she reminds her of her once-luscious self. Her husband, Howard, helps her find and take who she wants (disposing of all others) because he can’t satisfy her anymore with his heart condition. It is bloody, ghoulish insanity from there, and I am here for it. A third movie is set to be made as a sequel to X after the release of Pearl.
All the new characters are picked off one by one except the main character, Maxine Minx, a wannabe starlet starring with others in a porno made for the home video market. She has a cocaine habit that she uses to psyche herself up to go against her upbringing (she is the daughter of the zealot pastor on TV) and to erase unpleasant thoughts. She “will not accept a life she does not deserve”; she’s tired of not getting the things she wants out of this life as a red-blooded American female (namely, riches).
Bobby-Lynne wants a paid-for house plus a pool that she can sunbathe topless in; her American dream is not to be a star, though she does walk and talk like the star she is-she’s also very horny and comfortable with all parts of herself. She speaks her mind.
Jackson is the stud giving these lovely ladies all they want on camera who dates Bobbi-Lynne, sometimes.
Wayne Gilroy is the man with the plan spearheading this pornography effort: he keeps up morale, pays for the enterprise, and tries to keep the drama to a minimum. He left his wife for Maxine, who is at least 20 years his junior. RJ is the young, up-and-coming, rather prudish filmaker (at least with his own girlfriend’s desires anyway) who is the eye behind the camera.
His girlfriend, Lorraine, hoists the boom and is a little judgy at first, thinking what they do is smut but changes her mind after talking with the stars, joining in on camera simply because she wants to. RJ, has a small male breakdown about this. Then Grannie Death kills him for turning her down, Howard captures Lorraine in the basement, Wayne is eye-gouged in the barn, Bobby-Lynne dies by alligator, and Lorraine is murdered via shotgun. Maxine escapes the house of horrors, drives far away from that place while police investigate the next morning.
Underneath the story, there is plenty of commentary: “gay/straight/black/white-it’s all disco”-it doesn’t matter who you are or what you want to see, everyone wants to see it-they are simply giving people what they want (sex work is judged harshly even now, but they see the stupidity in all those opinions). One day, old age will rob people of the ability to have sex. They understand that outdated institutions have no right to say what they can and can’t do with our bodies (definitely controversial for 1979, but this is the new 1979; a better one, in my opinion). Life is too short not to have what we want. What strikes me personally about this movie is the freedom the women feel to simply be themselves and squeeze every ounce of pleasure they can out of this life; pleasure in their work is self-expression. They want what they want unabashedly, and feel no shame from others who turn up their noses at them. This movie also feels like it was actually filmed in the 70s; and I love the nods to other horror movies [notably, at least for me, the grandaddy of all slashers, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)].
The Process of Pearl
Pearl came about when Ti West was constructing a backstory for (and with) Mia Goth, who plays dual roles the young, beautiful Maxine and the old, withered Pearl. Eventually, they realized they had enough material to make another movie about Pearl herself, who truly is an engaging figure. Who is this woman? Why is her desire drenched in blood? How did she become who she is now? The movie poster shows Mia Goth as the young Pearl, something we saw in X (2022) to explain Pearl’s preoccupation with Maxine. Maxine is the spitting image of Pearl as a young woman, minus Minx’s distinctive facial birthmark. Pearl was a dancer in those days; Howard served in two wars, and nothing turned out exactly the way she thought (or more likely, wanted). Pearl relished the power of beauty, of manipulation when she had it and envies young Maxine for it.
The end credits scene of X shows Pearl in 1918, dancing happily in a new-looking barn spliced with her pushing an old man out into the lake of alligators. We also see her happily watching someone on fire, though it could be a fantasy from her point of view as we also see the same shot with her looking shocked/horrified. Reality for Pearl is clearly a tricky thing. She says all she wanted was to be loved, though genuinely, I don’t think that’s the problem. It sounds like her and Maxine wanted to be stars, loved by adoring fans, though Pearl never fully realizes those dreams being stuck on the farm and the wars.
In the poster, she holds her bloody hands up to her face with a bright-eyed, doe-like look, arrayed in a blood red dress to match, and a period hairstyle with a smaller image of her axeing someone, Lizzie Borden-style. Considering that Pearl is probably one of the most fascinating antagonists I’ve ever experienced, I’m thrilled she’s going to be star of her own movie.
We’re seeing a much more detailed, Technicolor peek into Pearl’s twisted world; she has the same obsession with fame as Maxine, wants the world to recognize and love her tinged with inner darkness. A theme of repression runs through the trailer of her true self—her murderous side, her sexuality but she also knows truly that something is wrong with her.
Pearl’s chief desire is to escape her life, escape the farm; she kills her competition in dance, her paralyzed father, assuming her mother. She may have graduated to humans from animals, but it’s clear she is dangerous.
Thanks for viewing ‘X (2022) and its Prequel Predecessor, Pearl’ by writer Victoria Jaye.
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