Review: “X,” is an impressive homage to 1970’s grindhouse-slasher films


“X,” released March 18, 2022, and starring Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega and Kid Cudi, is a new-age slasher film that brings a breath of fresh air to the genre. (Photo courtesy of A24 Studios)

A24 is a movie studio known for releasing high-quality horror films, including “The Witch,” “Midsommer” and “Hereditary.” Its latest release, “X,” is a horror film that manages to live up to the high standards set by its studio’s predecessors, while simultaneously paying homage to those that opened up the path for the slasher genre.

Released March 18, the film pulled in $4.4 million during its debut weekend—and for good reason. Director Ti West has delivered a scary, comedic and balanced movie, elevated by the performances of Brittany Snow, Jenna Ortega, Kid Cudi and just about every other character as well.

In true grindhouse fashion, “X” follows a group of six aspiring filmmakers, actors and actresses in 1970s rural Texas as they attempt to shoot the low-budget pornographic film they believe will catapult them to fame. As the elderly, withdrawn and frankly terrifying hosts of the home they are renting begin to learn about the group’s intentions, the true horror begins to creep in.

The motivations for each character can be summarized as a search for the so-called American dream: fame, fortune and an escape from their down-trodden realities. Even though the characters are portrayed as egotistical at times, they still prove to be charismatic and caring enough to root for until the very bloody end.

The cinematography is what gives this movie the touch of horror that A24 is known for. The horror elements are found within long and beautiful full shots of lake water and natural foliage with no music track, giving the audience a sense of peace and relaxation before noticing a looming shadow or movement in the water. 

There are no unnecessary jump scares or gimmicks. The horror comes from the eerie silence of danger creeping closer to these flawed yet likable and innocent characters. 

It also comes from the characters’ inner troubles and fears of not living the life they wanted. It is the existential horror of realizing the elderly couple are reflections of what the main characters are attempting to escape. 

“X,” does not shy away from the slasher genre’s signature gory and brutal character kills. In a bold callback to the famous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 film “Psycho,” the theater flooded in harsh red lighting as a comically large butcher knife appeared in and out of frame, managing to get a chuckle from a couple of theater-goers.

Every scene is there for a reason and the scene transitions are done in creative ways that fit together seamlessly. The humor is clever and blends in well, one scene even manages to break the fourth wall, flashing the words “Divine Intervention” as our protagonist gets a second chance at survival.

“X,” is a film worth seeing in theaters and is a nice break from superhero and massive budget films. West is not afraid to use sex and gore to push the audience out of their comfort zones while still delivering a message.