REVIEW: New horror ‘X’ delivers mix of old and new thrills

What happens when you cross “It Follows” with “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre?” It’s probably something like this movie, “X.”

Set during the late 70s in rural Texas, “X” follows a group of six characters who’re working on an adult film. To shoot the production, the filmmakers have rented themselves a small cabin on the property of a secluded farmer.

The group gets to work and things start off fine. However, when the property owners learn what kind of work is going on, they take great offense to the actions and the situation escalates to a deadly level.

Writer/director Ti West’s “X” is certainly a unique take on the slasher subgenre. While sex has certainly played a factor in slashers before, such as the aforementioned “It Follows” or “Friday the 13th,” it hasn’t been brought up like it is here.

What results is a fun slasher film with entertaining horror moments that also has some intrigue because of the themes at play. How one spends their youth, the difficulties of aging and sexual liberation are all all subjects present in the feature.

West wisely doesn’t overplay this aspect, as it thankfully never feels like unsubtle social commentary that beats a viewer over the head. Instead, it creates a greater backdrop for what’s happening on screen, giving this bloody film and its characters a level of depth.

One just wishes the film could’ve shifted into high gear a little quicker than it does. The movie takes its time to set things up, which is fine, but the first kill doesn’t come until nearly an hour in.

Courtesy A24.

Even with the slow burn approach, it feels like the film could’ve given the audience something to hold them over. The suspense has time to build, but for a movie with an ominous title like “X,” the mayhem should get going earlier.

The kills could have been a bit more creative, too. The first one takes place in front of a vehicle’s high-beams at night, and is bathed in red light. It’s a brutal, intense moment, and it’s never matched for the rest of the feature.

That’s not to say the majority of the kills in “X” are bad, per se, but there’s a feeling that they should’ve been more chaotic and gruesome in a grainy film that’s channeling 70s exploitation vibes.

Where “X” excels is with its characters. The protagonists in this one are a fun bunch, each with their own view on the work they’re doing and how it impacts their lives. From RJ wanting to bring an artistic flair to the adult film to Bobby-Lynne who’s just excited to show off her sex-appeal. It’s a good mix and makes for an engaging set of situations.

The film’s antagonists are also a positive, being more than just a one-dimensional killer. They’re a calculating duo and their twisted relationships makes the movie all the more creepy.

The look of the film is another positive. The film has a throwback feel, looking like a 70s slasher. So much so that some of the shots are nearly identical to those in “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” It’s a nice way to pay homage and set the tone.

Despite being a bit too slow and lacking more inventive kills, “X” is still a fun, slasher that takes inspiration from past movies in the genre while still offering something original. This one works quite well and earns a 3.85 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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