Saturday, October 28, 2023

HalloWatch: X (2022)

Watched:  10/27/2023
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ti West

A xerox of a xerox of movies you've seen before, the greatest sin of X, the 2022 horror smash, is that it's fundamentally boring.  

Look, I don't make the movies, I just watch them, and when you're drawing obvious comparisons to your own movie, in the movie, and you choose to draw the audience's attention to Psycho (which I happened to have just watched), you're soft-breaking the cardinal movie rule of not showing a better movie during your own movie.  But, yes, the movie is a slow build for literally the first hour of people making a porn film in a rustic cabin on some farmer's property in the middle of East Texas nowhere, with some light hints that something is up with the elderly owners of the farm/ ranch-land where the filming is taking place.

The problem with this, imho, is that Writer/ Director Ti West is under the impression that by borrowing Psycho's slow build and pivot, which he calls out, he's doing the same thing.  But we're 62 years on, we've all seen a lot of movies, and at this point I was looking at my watch instead of the movie when we don't get our first kill til 58 minutes into a 105 minute film.  I don't know how to tell Ti West - my man, Hitch did this 30 years into perfecting tension in movies.  This ain't that.

The actors are good enough, with only one of them doing anything resembling a Texas accent, and the rest doing movie-southern.  I won't get into the nuance of Houston accents, because that's tedious, but I will point out the suggestion is that they're in Houston at the start, but Ti West means Pasadena, where they filmed Urban Cowboy around the same time.  

Weirdly, the movie is filmed in New Zealand, doubling for East Texas, and it's a surprisingly good match, if you've driven through that region.  Flat with patches of tall trees and plenty cleared for farming and ranching.  What I can't buy is that a building built in the 1920's, let alone during the Civil War, would still be standing without major restoration effort, given the weather and mold of Texas anywhere within 3 hours of the Gulf.  

The pitch of the movie is essentially "old people are scary, and more so if it's clearly low-budget old-age makeup".  What drives the elderly woman, Pearl, to murder, is that she's horny, and unable to sate her endless desire as she once did with her husband, and, we assume, many other lovers.  I'm unsure if we're supposed to find old people having sexual desire frightening - I personally don't, and am perfectly aware old folk's homes can basically have the the same amount of hanky panky happening behind closed doors as freshmen dorms. 

Why lust turns to homicide, I can't say.  And the movie doesn't care to make it clear.  But we're told that seeing Maxine, played by new indie film darling Mia Goth as both Maxine and Pearl (under makeup) and catching bits of the filming, her desires are stoked, and when she's rebuffed, she gets stabby.

It's an interesting decision.  The way Pearl is played is as a frail old woman, and its kind of tough to buy she or her husband can do much but shuffle around the house hoping not to break a hip.  There's no magic or anything, just a misdirected libido and a too-understanding husband.  

But, yeah, you'll watch the movie and say "huh, that's Boogie Nights.  That's Lake Placid.  That's Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  That's Psycho." and so on and so forth.   In it's way, it's just another "ooooOOOoooOOoooo people who live in non-urban places are creeeeeepy" movie.  But the cast is small, they're all written to be morons.  It takes *forever* to get from death to death as the movie *finally* gets around to being a horror film.  But none of its that interesting (I did have a laugh at the reference to the actual farmer's daughter joke reference in the movie, even if it made literally no sense).  

I think maybe West is trying to say something about sex, but it's kind of like - nothing particularly interesting.  So.  

Anyway.. it's fine.  If all you're looking for is a movie where people get murdered, this is that.  I won't watch it again, but go nuts on your fandom here.  I found the pacing absolutely deadly, and the attempts to repackage better films kind of ill-conceived.  

Oh, yeah, this also has Jenna Ortega, who is having her breakout year, and she's pretty good!  As is the entire cast, I guess.  

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