Like an adult film, no one is watching a slasher for its plot. X is an erotic slasher with all the glory and sadly not enough of the gore.
After a group of aspiring adult filmmakers arrive at a secluded farmhouse to shoot a film, they become increasingly aware of a sinister elderly couple that lurks across the field.
Following the trope of grindhouse slasher films, X feels familiar. The setting and set-up from the road trip to the clear 70’s aesthetic that is a touch sinister suits the genre. A clear homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), the film sets up the genre nicely, building audience expectations for what’s to come. However, as the film progresses, X finds itself wandering outside of the traditional confines of a slasher. Instead, the film takes an erotic charge as the question of female sexuality and autonomy arise.
As the women decide what they want and how far they will go, tensions begin to rise between the group. The ambitious Maxine (Mia Goth) sets her eyes on fame, whilst Bobby-Lynn (Brittany Snow) finds focus in her co-star Jackson (Kid Cudi). Lorraine (Jenny Ortega), the sound recordist, finds ambition in getting in front of the camera. As the aspirations for these women begin to form throughout the narrative and sexuality takes reign, we begin to get an insight into the true presence that lurks across the field. An elderly couple filled with intrigue and regret seem to haunt the ground, and, as night falls, we see their interest in their guests cross a threshold of no return.
Whilst X seems to feel cemented within the slasher genre, it takes an hour before any of the slashing occurs. This slow pacing seems to drag out the film with a less than expected gore-catharsis in return. The quick and concise slasher sequences pack a weaker punch as they are flagged with light gore and sudden, gun filled deaths. Gone are the long chase scenes, chainsaws and screams; instead, they are met with pitchforks, knives and guns. At points, the film does seem to branch into Giallo visuals, which are a nice touch but take away from the emotional release of the film.
The strength lies in the acting, with Goth cementing herself as a horror fiend, building on the magnetic performance in 2018’s Suspiria. Similarly, Ortega is forming a horror repertoire for herself with a compelling performance. The only point of tension in their performances being so strong is that their deaths weren’t dragged out enough. Instead, the film took a thematic approach, exploring the infantilisation of the elderly, female sexuality and repression.
With strong visuals and thematic homages, X is an intriguing film. Yet, it underdelivers. The gore and horror feel subdued as the plot takes too much prevalence. With a narrative focus that isn’t perfectly executed, the film feels slightly underdeveloped in the horror aspect. However, it is entertaining and has enough splatter, but could focus more on the gore than the story.
The title of the film, “X”, refers to the X rating used by the MPAA from 1968-1990 and indicated that a film with that certificate was only suitable for an audience 16 or older.