Review: 'X' Takes a Wrong Turn and Never Recovers

by Padraic Maroney

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday May 24, 2022

'X'
'X'  (Source:A24)

In the latest installment of the "Scream" series, actress Jenna Ortega espouses the virtues of the elevated horror films released by independent film producer A24. Now, the actress is getting the chance to star in one such film. "X" is an elevated take on the '70s horror films, but like most of the characters in those movies, the film itself takes a wrong turn and never recovers.

Set in 1979, Ortega is part of a ragtag film crew in Houston, Texas that heads to rural Texas to make a porn movie. They have dreams of making the next "Debbie Does Dallas" and becoming rich and famous. Unfortunately, as tends to happen, the boarding house that they rent is owned by an elderly couple who aren't exactly happy with all the fornication that is unfolding on their property. As night falls, the bodies start to pile up.

Writer-director Ti West, who has worked his magic in capturing the feel of the time periods that his previous films are set, does the same here. It looks more like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" than even its own glossy 2003 remake did. The property where the porn troupe intends to shoot their film takes its cues from its chainsaw-wielding predecessor. The main house, down to its swinging screen door, even bears a resemblance to that house of horrors. "Massacre" director Tobe Hooper seems to have heavily influenced West, who has also included nods to the director's other work here.

The problem with "X" is that it gives us plenty of jiggle early in the film while they are filming the porn, but not enough titillation after that. It isn't scary or gory enough to satisfy the typical slasher fans looking for the next great slaughterfest, and its examination of aging and sexuality isn't nearly as deep and thought provoking as West might think it is. Trying to juggle the two elements is tough, leading to an uneven split in a film that starts off as a promising, slow burn homage to the horror films of that decade before descending into a campy second half that borders on parody.

A cast that is more than game for whatever is thrown their way — whether it be horny old people, pitchforks, shotguns, or even an alligator, because why not — is the film's saving grace. Brittany Snow, who's made a career out of playing the living embodiment of bright-eyed innocence, looks to break free of her "Pitch Perfect" image by playing Bobby-Lynne, a porn star who wants to be so famous that she can afford her own pool. Ortega is another bright spot, and officially cements her status as one of this generation's foremost scream queens. (Her scream is literally central to the marketing of the film and its trailer.) Out of the three actresses, its actually lead actress Mia Goth who leaves the lightest footprint on the film.

"X" might draw people in with its lurid subject matter, but it doesn't mark the spot when it comes to finding a satisfying horror film.

"X" arrives May 24 on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital) and DVD, from Lionsgate.