X aims for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe and docu-drama aesthetic. It’s set in 1979 and follows a ragtag film crew trying to make “a good dirty movie.” They’ve rented a guest house in the middle of nowhere Texas as their film site. The site is a farm property owned by an octogenarian couple that doesn’t seem to approve of these young folk.
The elder lady of the house ends up becoming the slasher killer that mows down the young adults. It’s revealed that she has her own urges that the old husband is no longer physically able to satisfy, so she seeks out solace one way or another with the newcomers, whether that be through her sexual satisfaction or through violence.
To director Ti West’s credit, he’s given more attention to his characters than the usual genre effort. By no means are these characters going to be confused with three-dimensional figures, but there’s enough character shading that makes it impactful when they regrettably bite the dust. There are some well-executed squirm-worthy moments throughout, and X borders on elevated horror with its complexity and style. The best thing going for X is the dual performances from actress Mia Goth, the first as a stripper-turned-ingenue that sees pornography as a path of possible self-actualization, but she’s also secretly the killer old lady under piles and piles of makeup.
Her wild performances, including scenes where she is facing off against herself, makes the movie far more interesting. As a horror movie, it’s disturbing and bloody and surprising in equal measure, making it a must see for horror fans.