Review by Anna Bogutskaya @annabdemented

Directed by

Ti West


Brittany Snow Martin Henderson Mia Goth


Give me boobs and blood.


Gross but in a great way.

In Retrospect.

Sweaty, sexy and extremely fun slasher.

Ti West creates a new cultural association with ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ that’s not Christopher Walken demanding more cowbell.

In his first film since 2016’s In a Valley of Violence, and his first horror picture in almost a decade (the last one being the cult-based horror The Sacrament), Ti West brings it back to basics: sex, blood and cinema.

X is a film of extreme encounters, in every sense. Set in 1979, a makeshift family of porn performers make their way to a remote farmhouse in deep Texas which they’ve rented to serve as the setting of the porno they’re shooting, ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’. The rag-tag group is led by their sleazy exec producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), who has hired a creatively ambitious director RJ (Owen Campbell) and his shy sound recordist girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega) to shoot a genuinely “good dirty movie”.

Wayne intends to make bank, inspired by the success of ’70s legendary porn picture Debbie Does Dallas, and his girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth) intends to become a star. They’re joined by Vietnam vet Jackson (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) loves his porn job and Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), who just wants to buy a house with a pool so she can sunbathe her talents. Once the on-camera sex is over, they’re a wholesome bunch, eating sandwiches and singing Fleetwood Mac songs a capella.

As soon as they pull into the farmhouse, though, they get on the nerves of the creepy owners, an elderly couple, Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (Mia Goth, pulling double duty), who are simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to the horny bohemians. The tension between the two groups escalates into a gruesome and grimy final thirty minutes of stabbing, impaling and alligator chomping.

The premise is simple: hot young things getting slaughtered in a creaky old house. And that’s enough. X shares the DNA of Texas Chain Saw Massacre more than the recent sequel does. In his introduction to A24’s newsletter on the film, he wrote about his respect for both porn and horror filmmaking, “two forms of lowbrow entertainment that could be made independently outside of the traditional Hollywood studio system.” The slashers of the seventies created a visual language that we’re still emulating today, using the limitations of independent filmmaking as a springboard for their creativity.

West doesn’t just ape the style of independent 70s filmmaking but adds a bit of contemporary flavour. The editing here pulls some unconventional tricks. There are wild juxtapositions and screen wipes and split-screens that pull us out of a sense of false security slashers usually lull the audience into. There are quiet moments of tension that genuinely make you squirm in anticipation and appreciation for the artful framing by West’s regular cinematographer Elliott Rockett.

The dread is always there, but the violence doesn’t kick in til we’re already invested and comfortable with the characters. Mia Goth’s double-duty performance as the ambitious sex starlet Maxine and the frustrated old Pearl is intense: she’s dreamy and determined as Maxine and intensely creepy as Pearl, who resents the pretty young things that get to mess around when she can’t anymore. Pearl’s make-up, though, leans into the tiresome idea that being old is by default grotesque and scary.

X has no interest in making sweeping statements about sexual liberation, about pornography or ageing. It brings the slasher back to its fleshy basics, leaning into what made the granddaddies of slasher films so memorable. At the very heart of West’s movie is the essence of independent filmmaking itself: someone wants to make art, another wants to be a star, and everyone else wants to make money.

Support our independent journalism and receive monthly film recommendations, exclusive essays and more

Become a member

Published 19 Mar 2022

Tags: Brittany Snow Mia Goth Ti West X


Give me boobs and blood.


Gross but in a great way.

In Retrospect.

Sweaty, sexy and extremely fun slasher.

Suggested For You

The House of the Devil

By Tom Seymour

Ti West’s period chiller is a modern horror film that feels at once nostalgically hackneyed and invigoratingly fresh.

review LWLies Recommends

The Sacrament

By David Jenkins

One of America's most exciting young directors delivers half of a great movie with this investigation into religious cults.


Every Video Nasty ranked from worst to best

By Little White Lies

Cannibals! Nazis! Cannibal Nazis! Our definitive guide to the most notorious movies ever made.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.