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John’s Horror Corner: X (2022), a geriatric horror merging a Boogie Nights (1997) character piece with much meaner iteration of The Visit (2015).

April 18, 2022

MY CALL:  This film explores its characters more than most viewers likely expected, and perhaps even to its detriment in terms of reviews from those who expected a faster pace. The horror takes a back seat to long, patient character development and lingering, curious atmosphere before unleashing its cold, lacerating brutality. All told, I loved this. But one must be prepared for a more thoughtful film.  MORE MOVIES LIKE XFor more geriatric horror, try Bubba Ho-tep (2002), The Skeleton Key (2005), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), Late Phases (2014), The Visit (2015), Anything for Jackson (2020) and Relic (2020).

Set in 1979, a group of adult filmmakers rent a guest cabin in rural Texas to make the film that will bring them fame. Wayne (Martin Henderson; The Ring), RJ (Owen Campbell; Super Dark Times), Maxine (Mia Goth; Suspiria, A Cure for Wellness), Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow; Prom Night) and Jackson (Kid Cudi; Creepshow) form a mostly tight knit group with clear separations between love and sex; whereas Lorraine (Jenna Ortega; Scream, Studio 666, Insidious: Chapter 2) is an outsider who doesn’t readily understand their profession or lifestyle.

The rural Texas, God-fearing, 70s vibes are strong. Wayne’s initial approach to the elders’ house smacked hard, and likely in homage, of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, 2003) down to particular camera angles. Wayne’s crew is readily met with suspicion and outspoken moral disapproval by the elderly owners (Stephen Ure; Deathgasm) of the property, who are physically and mentally limited, one of which requiring full-time care and behaving suspiciously like she could be in a horror movie.

Director and writer Ti West (The Innkeepers, House of the Devil, The Sacrament) harbingers the massacre to come with a juicy Texas steer roadkill with its chunky entrails dumped on the road. But viewers should be patient, as there is much more to this movie than blood and guts. This film explores its characters more than most viewers likely expected, and perhaps even to its detriment in terms of reviews from those who expected a faster pace.

For an hour, this is purely a drama with not a hint of horror—and I love it. Our characters have dreams and desires, seek love and happiness as much as their own version of the American dream, and contrary to standard horror tropism of the genre, they seem in no way morally depraved or deserving of punishment by some killer or evil force. West has a lot to say in this film, and seems to be exploring the dynamic of adult filmmakers and actors every bit as much as those who would think ill of them.

But once the horror ensues, the blood spews in violent gouts and the stabbery is brutally cold. The gore is on point, and some wild things transpire. Some of it we see coming, but that’s part of the fun when it still manages to be shocking. Much of the violence is like that; strikingly abrupt, very effective. Really, this is more of a delayed burn than a slow burn.

I love where West takes this film; from beginning to end. This isn’t an epic horror movie, as it is only a horror movie in part. And yes, that horror “part” is intense and wild and gory. But more than half of this story explores characters in the absence of horror, during which Snow packs more stylish attitude than can fit in her revealing romper. This may end up being one of the more interesting films of the year for this reviewer. Kudos, Mr. West.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2022 9:30 am

    After watching the trailer I quickly decided I’d be skipping this one. It seemed like it was trying to be another Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot without the chainsaw, which somehow would make it even worse than the TCMs, if that is even possible. But after reading this I want to see it. It sounds like it is a good horror movie, not just good in the horror and gore but good as a movie overall. Thank you for the review, otherwise I would have skipped right over this one.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      April 24, 2022 12:40 pm

      I hope you enjoy it and report back once you see it. 😉

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