X follows a porn crew that rents out a lodge/barn space to secretly film their movie under the guise of a pleasant outing with friends. When the elderly hosts of the home aren't fooled, bloody actions are taken.
[This movie was viewed from the movie theater at the time of this review.]
There is one definitive thought I have on a movie like X...homage to exploitation is still exploitation, and exploitation for exploitation's sake requires a certain mindset to appreciate. I was expecting a grindhouse throwback to raunchy slashers and received nothing short of that. If one steps in looking forward to the usual A24 arthouse flick, you may step away disappointed.
X rides the line between homage and parody by the mere fact of its existence. It can't help but be a tad campy with its ridiculous premise, but the crisp script and fine acting raise it above the mold it was crafted from. Despite being a mindless slasher on the surface, and even below the surface, there is a quality throughout that makes it feel like a cut above the rest.
X is also a smorgasbord of Easter eggs for horror fans, dropping nods to a variety of flicks from the 70s and 80s. But perhaps the most impressive part is how seamlessly these eggs are strewn about through the narrative and don't feel derivative or cheap. They feel like they are a part of the film's character rather than a mindless nod.
That isn't to say this movie was perfect in my eyes. While I appreciate the detail and brutality of some of the film's kills, they were quite bland as well, in the sense that they weren't terribly creative. You won't find a unique device, a creatively improvised weapon, or an original approach to any of the kills, which was a disappointment to me. The cinematography surrounding the kills, however, was very on-point and worthy of note.
I also thought the film was a little imbalanced, not breaking into the violent mayhem until about an hour in. That leaves the porn movie premise, in this reviewer's eyes, eating up a bit too much screen time. And I didn't personally see a lot showing from the investment. I believe the point it was getting across could have been accomplished in less time. Perhaps, the film running at about an hour and 15 minutes, it could have been skimmed down to a cool 90-minute runtime with a bit of that fluff taken out. But that's just me.
The nasty nature of the entire affair felt like a 70s/80s B-horror slasher done right. The times I can recall recently having this much fun with a horror homage involved much heavier satire. Usually if it's done accurately or believably, the quality suffers. And that simply isn't the case here. I don't think X is for everyone. Heck, I don't know if I have much interest in watching it again. But I can appreciate it for what it is, and I wouldn't mind more films tackled with this kind of texture and tone in the future. Director Ti West certainly has a knack for it.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 10/10
Horror Quality: 8/10
Film Quality: 7/10