Because right after the above-mentioned scene, Ti West gives a willing signal to what we are here for: joyfully splashing buckets of red paint. And although “X” is not devoid of some reflections on the genre, and, just like the memorable “House of the Devil”, it focuses more on its aesthetic side, there is something to hang not only on but also on your thoughts.
Following the American director’s filmography to date, it is easy to see his fascination with the clash of the old and the new, but West has never lowered himself to a thoughtless epigone, following the traditions of horror cinema carved in stone. He also never flew into the stratosphere of self-referential postmodernism. Not at all.
Rather, he found some kind of golden mean that allowed him to eat the cookie and still have the cookie. A great proof of this is the reviewed film, which supposedly breaks the line, but at the same time remains a pure slasher. In other words, there is no point in getting tense, because after all, it’s all about tripe this time.
The aftertaste of B-class horror is, of course, deliberate. The story takes place a few years after the events of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with which West corresponds not only on the level of single shots, but even set design. A youth crew going to the provinces to shoot a porn movie capable of shaking both subordinate movie theaters in Times Square, and an artistic world, obligatorily, according to the rules of the genre, even drives to a dilapidated gas station.
On the spot, the filmmakers find a hundred-year-old farmer who is supposed to rent them the location they have seen, and his senile wife, sighing for the lost years. But, although there are no breakneck tippers and at least one artistic flip (maybe except for the double role of one of the actresses, which I will not reveal), and the plot roughly follows the expected pattern, the director’s knack of the film is enough to make “X” fall out fresh despite its retro feeling. What you think will happen will actually happen here, but West’s near-sales talents help sell threadbare ideas like new.
Of course, this repeatability, which is constantly flirting with stereotypes, is an element of the creative strategy. The characters are selected according to the once-valid key, from a liberated blonde to a bespectacled mumbling something about art, when his girlfriend can’t wait to take off her underwear. Except no one here is bearing that infamous corporeal sins punishment that clung to the slasher as if he were a pop culture parable.
What is paradoxical, because we are talking about a porn crew all the time, the so-called “male gaze”, which is often characteristic of the genre, is missing here, i.e. shots that are indiscriminate objectifying the protagonists. In fact, West shows nudity not as a firework, but something that naturally belongs to the gray area of everyday life, and even makes his characters talk about the ethical dimension of sex in front of cameras.
Carnality is an important element of the plot, in fact its driving force, because the murder is carried out here out of lust, although it is lined with longing. West in a cunning way, in the midst of all the slaughterhouses he serves us, asks perhaps one really serious question about the limits of human sexuality, which, according to current cultural norms, seem to run closer to the present today than we would think.
Thus, it humanizes the character of a person who kills the members of the film crew one by one, giving him an understandable motivation – desire and rejection. This is by no means a mitigating circumstance, none of those things, we are dealing with truly twisted individuals. As “X” is only the middle part of the planned triptych (the prequel is ready), we will probably learn more about all interested parties soon.
I just hope not too much. Because although West looks pensive, stands on his head, charms and rocks, it is all about one thing.