Written by: Ti West
Starring: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell
Slashers, as a genre has found itself crafting rules most of the films like it have followed, whether it be the virginal character survives, if one has sex they are most likely to die, and several more. These rules become all the more difficult to follow when the plot revolves around a group of adult filmmakers and actors traveling to a remote location to film. Not much purity to go around but X has plenty of blood, death, and hilarious fun to enjoy as a throwback.
Trying to make something legitimate in the adult film industry, Wayne (Martin Henderson) takes his crew along with his stars, Maxine (Mia Goth), Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson (Scott Mescudi) to a farm to film “Farmer’s Daughters.” While trying to get this filming done discreetly as the owner of their rental weirds them out, they begin to see his old wife walking around the premises in a menacing manner.
Laid out as an accessible premise, X provides the two content areas fans expect of the slasher genre: sex and thrilling deaths. Throw in a remote location and some creepy older people and you have quite the combination of factors coming together for some good ol’ fashioned American entertainment. However, as much as X plays with its genre’s tropes, it really leans into the sexuality of its characters on a societal level as well as the fragility of men in the making of art.
To the second point, this mostly becomes evident in Wayne Gilroy, the producer and the man filming it all, RJ (Owen Campbell). They both want to make the adult film business more legitimate. Especially with the advent of home video becoming more prevalent, they want to be on the front foot of making smut but much more artistic. They have these ideals of art but the moment they get pushed on it, they fall like a lightly put-together house of cards. This mostly gets seen through RJ and the way he views the different women of this story and the value they hold both socially and in the world of art. A hilarious fragility this film loves taking a poke at both literally and figuratively.
The theme of purity and the religious zealotry around it comes with no illusions whatsoever, as a television blasts a preacher yelling about how the American youth have been poisoned by the devil. A level of righteousness one would expect regarding panic about everything regarding sex, drugs, and all else presumably crushing the American nuclear family. Contrast that with the sexual liberation of the characters in this feature and the fact this is a slasher picture, you just know blood will start splashing one way or another.
Quite possibly the biggest surprise of this feature comes from how straightforward it is with its themes and resulting actions. Coming into it, there would be intrigue about something even slightly supernatural happening here. Heck, even stories revolving around supposed real individuals like Michael Myers and Jason have elements of the supernatural interwoven within them. X simply tries to be raunchy and bloody through its real characters but the best part of it comes from the genuine humor instilled within the characters and their actions, especially the deaths.
Some of the kills come with a level of shock and horror one would expect from this genre but others are genuinely hilarious and ones, where people would expect to be in a spoof but it occurs in all seriousness here. Several callbacks get utilized where near-death experiences then turn into certainty one act later. It comes with a level of tongue-in-cheek and the genuine nature of the film where so much of it does not need to be taken so seriously. It makes for a fun affair with its ridiculousness.
Other than the proverbial final girl characters in slashers are meant to add entertainment in the way they die and the characters in X certainly accomplish that while also having some personality to them. From the likes of Wayne, Jackson, and the three women portrayed by Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, and Brittany Snow. They all have wonderful lines. They land with plenty of cheek and most of them go out with a nice bang. Well in the adult movie they film and in their death.
Incredibly fun, grotesque, and everything one could want from a slasher, X delivers on everything it promises. It lives up to the description of being a “fucked up horror picture” in more ways than one. Definitely something to see with a group of people as you all react to the insanity on display along with the bits of laughter as well.