“X” Review: A Polarizing, Brutal Slasher Packed With Steamy Performances

The director goes off the chains with X in this steamy ode to the 70s about sex, mental health, and aging. Forget everything you know about the horror genre and get ready for the hottest, craziest rollercoaster that defies many taboos.

When you’re a kid, being an adult is mysterious and seemingly so cardinal. As a result, you were always curious about what the adults would talk about when discussing “grown-up” topics. Ti West’s X reminds us of this feeling and demonstrates that we don’t actually differ that much from one another, despite the many years between us. The dark urges don’t go away; in fact, they grow stronger. The director goes off the chains with X in this steamy ode to the 70s about sex, mental health, and aging. Forget everything you know about the horror genre and get ready for the hottest, craziest rollercoaster that breaks many taboos.

Rural Texas, 1970. A group of filmmakers embark on a journey to create a one-of-a-kind adult film. Especially RJ (Owen Campbell), the production’s director, believes it’s possible to make such a film with depth and he’s determined to do so. The group rents a dusty yet charming rustic cottage from the older man to shoot the film. In addition to the directors and those in charge of the setting, the group includes Lorraine (Jenna Ortega)—RJ’s girlfriend, Maxine (Mia Goth), and her partner/boss, Wayne (Martin Henderson), and the film’s main characters, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Murphy) and Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi). As the cast and crew attempt to shoot an adult film under their hosts’ noses, the elderly couple catches them in the act. The tone quickly shifts to a brutal slaughter rife, full of naturalism and commentary on generational divides and our need for physical pleasures that only grow in adulthood.

Ti West’s story almost constantly plays on our digust, and shock to see what’s natural in such an unapologetic way. The director, known for his work on The House of the Devil, gives the genre a new twist and breaks all the taboos when in terms of lovemaking and physical pleasures. The film is sensual, enthralling, brutal, and mind-bending. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen; is for people willing to see things they have never seen before.

Jenna Ortega in X / courtesy of A24

When the main cast lacks the ability to carry the film, it’s unlikely to be a success. X’s extraordinary cast—Ortega, Goth, Snow, Campbell, Cudi, and Henderson, elevates the movie to a new level, delivering polarizing, steamy, perhaps contentious performances. Ortega and Goth stood out the most to me and shined the brightest in their strong-willed and even empowering roles. Ortega, in particular, demonstrates herself to be a fantastic scream queen for the contemporary time and audience. What began with Scream continues in X. Even though she isn’t the lead in this adult-movie-gone-brutal scenario, the actress is captivating and excels in the role.

In a way, feels like a throwback horror film and exudes big 70s vibes thanks to its killer soundtrack, editing, and cinematography. With the addition of the brutal kills and scenes that will stay with you for the rest of your life, becomes one of the most shocking films of the year, deserving of acclaim in the same way that Ti West deserves ovations for breaking so many taboos and forcing the average audience to open their minds.

Courtesy of A24

X is a vastly pleasing bloodbath in which the creators blend a groovy, liberating ambiance of the 1970s with an adult film topic, and slasher. The entire setting is deliciously composed, with every component meticulously detailed.

X could be a literal story about the production of a crazy adult movie that simply gone horribly wrong. It could also be a tale about our wants and the hypocrisy of people who judge others for their desires while harboring the same exact ones deep within themselves. Ti West makes sure that we’re thoroughly shocked, maybe even disgusted by what we see. The director highlights naturalism and thrives in it. There are no ghosts, but an ugly, dangerous truths about people and their unstoppable needs.

is not a film for the faint of heart. West’s story throws us right into the deep water, broadens our horizons, and provokes us. It’s an unforgettable film worth revisiting, with a soundtrack jam-packed with bangers and performances out of this world.

Grade: A

„Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a gruesome film for the acquired taste

Texas Chainsaw Massacre won’t be for everybody and that’s as obvious as the fact that the film’s killer wears someone else’s face in every film. But its amount of gore and elaborate death scenes may satisfy a horror/slasher/Leatherface fan.

February 22nd, 2022

The slashers’ beauty, among others, is the chaos and confusion the various franchises cause in the audience who often attempts to understand the chapters’ ultimate order and tirelessly find a deeper meaning. But the truth is—while the deeper meaning may be there, it’s not always the case nor should it be. This is why Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great new entry into the franchise and becomes an interesting continuation filled with campiness and gore.

One may even call it a requel, as per Scream’s new horror expert, Mindy. Or I claim it to be. In David Blue Garcia’s newest film (now streaming on Netflix), Olwen Fouéré portrays Sally—a quite legendary figure and Leatherface’s only survivor from the original Tobe Hopper’s movie.

Marilyn Burns portrayed Sally in Hopper’s production. But, given Burns’ untimely death, would this be the ultimate exception, and the film is, in fact, a requel? I certainly believe so. The film is that and so much more. It strives to deliver as much gore as possible. Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues, the writers of the gruesome script, ensure that we remember the elaborate death scenes.

Courtesy of Netflix

The film follows a group of friends—Ruth (Nell Hudson), Dante (Jacob Latimore), Melody (Sarah Yarkin), and her sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher), as they travel to Harlow, Texas, to execute a new business idea. Their mission is to resurrect a Texas ghost town and invite others to join them and create a new community. It sounds like a dream, especially in the contemporary life where the daily routine is going a little bit too fast.

According to the familiar plot, they have no idea they are about to encounter Leatherface (Bob Burnham), the legendary serial killer who wears a mask made out of human skin. The man seeks vengeance on the young people who, whether they intended or not, contributed to his caretaker’s death (Alice Krige).

But after the surprising arrival of the Learherface’s survivor, who seeks her own vengeance, everything turns into a bloody, absurd, and gruesome spectacle that leads to an expected yet still satisfying finale.

The level of acting is rather shadowed by everything else in the film. The script is known, predictable yet it manages to make us squirm. Sarah Yarkin and Elise Fisher as estranged sisters make a great and entertaining duo, especially in *that* bus scene. Additionally, the creators attempt to include a social commentary on the school shootings in Lila’s character and how greatly they affect the students. The matter is serious and worth discussing but it seems misplaced amongst other elements of the film.

If you’re an average viewer, it may be quite difficult to rate slasher films as such, especially when the creators focus on the visual, gruesome aspects, not the story itself. They’re not putting pressure on the character development. Instead, they focus on the villain and his revenge.

Knowing this and remembering that slashers recently tend to mock its own genre and other films that we can categorize as requels, one must realize that Texas Chainsaw Massacre values gore more than the solid narrative. The director doesn’t limit the amount of blood splattering, presenting possibly the bloodiest rage of Leatherface. It’s a spectacle filled with broken bones and countless moments of Leatherface slicing into his victims’ flesh. After the young people get involved, the rage grows and spirals out of control. You may not be expecting this much violence, so brace yourself for a wild ride.

As previously stated, slasher films revel in the over-the-top story or elements that poke fun at other creations, such as the worn-out but somehow always engaging stereotype of the killer remembering, even seeking, his first victim—the one who got away. A similar notion can be found in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With a parallel narrative in the new installment, the creators appear to be making fun of recent Halloween sequels. Whatever it is, it’s effective and not at all disrespectful—it even further highlights the campiness of recent slashers.

However, we can only speculate as far as director’s intentions are their form of art and may not ever be known. Nonetheless, the film is a welcomed diversion from everyday life. Instead of chasing deadlines and worrying excessively, it’s sometimes nice to enjoy screaming at a bloody slasher.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre won’t be for everybody and that’s as obvious as the fact that the film’s killer wears someone else’s face in every film. But its amount of gore and elaborate death scenes may satisfy a horror/slasher/Leatherface fan.

Grade: C+

Sundance 2022: “892”, “Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power”, “Fresh”, “Emergency”

Due to the increase in cases, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival’s board decided to go entirely virtual, similar to last year. Despite the sudden changes and additional obstacles, the program was meticulously prepared, as evidenced by the graphic design, interviews, and pre-screening chats.

The following article recapitulates a few positions that I’ve had a chance to see in the last few days during Sundance 2022. The films differ from each other in terms of genres, style, and the after-thought that they provoke.

Due to the increase in cases, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival’s board decided to go entirely virtual, similar to last year. Despite the sudden changes and additional obstacles, the program was meticulously prepared, as evidenced by the graphic design, interviews, and pre-screening chats.

The following article recapitulates a few positions that I’ve had a chance to see in the last few days during Sundance 2022. The films differ from each other in terms of genres, style, and the after-thought that they provoke.

Emergency

EMERGENCY / Sundance 2022

The first film I saw at Sundance 2022 was Emergency. Directed by Carey Williams, the film initially appears to be a witty comedy. On the other hand, the third act transforms into a powerful statement, prompting self-reflection and stimulating debate.

The night can flow in various ways, and the group of friends is about to find out. As they prepare for a legendary party night, three college students—Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), Sean (RJ Cyler), and Carlos (Sebastian Chacon)—must decide whether to call the police when they find themselves in an unexpected and dangerous situation.

Cyler, Chacon, and Watkins give competent and thoughtful performances that linger with a viewer for quite some time. Watkins as Kunle, in particular, manages to intrigue and move the audience during the heartbreaking finale. The film begins almost innocently, but its presence is intended to make a statement about police brutality and highlight how frequently the Black community is forced into difficult situations.

Emergency holds the audience’s attention with a solid narrative and detailed direction. In addition, the superb cast ensemble captivates at all times.

Fresh

FRESH / Sundance 2022

Mimi Cave’s spine-chilling thriller, with an elevated script by Lauryn Kahn, not only shocks but disgusts. Fresh is perhaps the biggest surprise of this year’s film festival, and it’s one we won’t soon forget thanks to its complex script and shocking conclusion.

When Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is about to give up on numerous dating apps and the mission of finding “the one,” she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), a charming and educated man. Contrary to popular belief, the couple meets at the bar in an old-fashioned, even archaic manner.

But Noa quickly realizes that even the old way won’t work if you’re only out for meat and blood—literally. In a shocking twist, the main female character becomes a prisoner of true evil and fights for survival at any cost.

Fresh isn’t an easy watch; it will often shock you to your core and put your instincts to the test almost every step of the way. There are numerous possible conversations to have after the closing credits roll on the screen. First and foremost, the film reminds us of the perils that await single women in this brave, new world. Furthermore, it provides a contemporary commentary on society, materialism, and the splendor surrounding the riches—highly recommended.

892

892 / Sundance 2022

Nothing can prepare you for what Abi Damaris Corbin accomplished in 892. The thriller, co-written with Kwame Kwei-Armah and premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, is filled with shocking twists and turns, and unbelievable tension.

Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega), a Marine veteran, faces mental and emotional difficulties as he attempts to reintegrate into civilian life. Unfortunately, Brian’s situation worsens when Verenan’s Affairs withholds the last of his paychecks.

Utterly helpless, the man decides to rob the bank. After Brian takes the measure into his own hands and takes bank tellers Estel (Nicole Beharie) and Rosa (Selenis Leyva) into a hostage situation, we can thoroughly feel Brian’s high range of strong, ambivalent emotions that fill the screen.

892 doesn’t slow down for a single second. It commences swiftly, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats for almost the entire film. Boyega, Beharie, and Leyva are all enthralling and often heartbreaking characters. I was floored by 892, which, with the appearance of late Michael Kenneth Williams, left me nearly screaming with helplessness towards this country’s broken system.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power

BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER / Sundance 2022

While diversity and female representation continues to grow and evolve as we educate ourselves, many harmful elements in our daily lives remain ever-present and, worse, go unnoticed. Thankfully, Nina Menkes takes matters into her own hands in Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power, focusing on a critical subject: the portrayal of female eroticism in film through the male gaze.

Menkes raises awareness and zeroes in on a serious yet critically overlooked issue in the film industry by presenting collected data and conducting interviews with specialists. Furthermore, the director provides many brilliant and comprehensive examples from films spanning many decades to help better visualize the problem and be aware of it as we move forward.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power appears to be an ordinary documentary, yet it feels different as it focuses on the issue of female eroticism presented via the male gaze and presents the negative results of it that we must address quickly. Menke’s film does a good job of bringing the issue to light, and its structure is substantive, clear, and, more important; necessary.

2022 Sundance Film Festival is taking place from January 20 to January 30 virtually on www.https://www.sundance.org/.

Personal Favorite Films of 2021

In terms of change, it was an interesting year for the cinema as well; it demonstrated that we are maturing into diversity and its rightful representation on screen, but we still have a lot to learn. Nonetheless, the creators delivered positions that, I am confident, will become timeless as the years pass. Each is unique, and each had something that piqued my interest in some way.

Each year goes by, and each year I think to myself: hopefully, the next one will be better. However, this is not entirely correct because every year has its ups and downs. As the year 2021 is drawing to a close, and the year 2022 will soon welcome us in its embrace, I think it was quite special in terms of achieving personal goals and keeping healthy in these trying times.

In terms of change, it was an interesting year for the cinema as well; it demonstrated that we are growing into diversity and its rightful representation on screen, but we still have a lot to learn. Nonetheless, the creators delivered positions that, I am confident, will become timeless as the years pass. Each is unique, and each had something that piqued my interest in one way, or another.

When I watch a movie, my mind is drawn to the meaning behind the script and the lenses of the cameras first. Each of the films listed below captivated my attention and lingered in my mind long after the film séance. There is no specific order to the list. These are simply the films that have had the most impact on me this year. I also want to state that I have yet to watch films on my list that I’ve been meaning to watch. The list is ever-changing, so take it with a grain of salt–just some films to watch if you didn’t.

Petite Maman

Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz in Petite Maman.

I’ve been a fan of Céline Sciamma for some time now. Petite Maman was one of my anticipated positions when covering the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. What I didn’t expect is for this precious, illuminating film to become one of my ultimate favorites of this year.

The film tells the story of Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) who loses her grandmother. As the little girl assists her family in cleaning her mother’s childhood home, Nelly meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz). The girls grow closer to each other over time, sharing many secrets that connect them in an unusual, beautiful way. 

Petite Maman tells an extraordinary story. The film’s imaginative viewpoint and truths hidden behind the lines of the script all resurface at the film’s emotional conclusion. Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz are at the heart of the film, stealing the spotlight from every other supporting character.

The Matrix Resurrections

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix Resurrections / Warner Brothers

There is no secret that The Matrix trilogy is one of my ultimate favorite, dearest films. When I was in middle school and others were talking about how many cool things they got for the holidays, I’d proudly say that I got the original trilogy on DVD.

Finally, 21 years after we first met Thomas Anderson, aka, Neo (Keanu Reeves) —an IT by day and hacker by night, the beloved characters are back. Although the film feels more like a familiar, warm embrace and not a breath of fresh air, the new characters, new technology, and more elaborate fight scenes make up for it. It’s one hell of a comeback to Matrix. 

The excellence of the film lies within nostalgic script and dialogues that become an ode to the previous parts. Matrix Resurrections will undoubtedly divide the audience with its polarizing narrative. However, I’m sure that it’s excellent viewing for those who are just discovering the franchise and slowly following the white rabbit. At the same time, it becomes a great love story and nostalgic ode for the original trilogy fans. 

My full review here.

Mass

Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton in Mass by Fran Kranz, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ryan Jackson-Healy.

I still, to this day, think about Kranz’s debut at least once a day. Mass truly breaks any boundaries and is one of a few films that delve into another side of the story.

The film tells a story of two pairs of parents—one of them the parents of the school shooter, while the others are the parents of the victim.  When Gail and Jay (Martha Plimpton and Jason Issacs) arrive at the chapel, they meet Linda and Richard (Ann Dowd and Reed Birney). Momentarily, all bets are off. The anxiety and uncomfortable tension arise from the very moment both families meet. It’s an indescribable kind of stress, the one that only people who can relate on a personal level can truly feel.

Kranz’s film will stimulate many conversations about the mental health system in which the United States lacks much, the issue of easy gun access, and much more. Mass is not an easy film to watch, but we must view it and talk about it. The film is a very powerful depiction of loss, forgiveness, and the coming together of two sides. The names of Plimpton, Dowd, Issacs, and Birney are worth remembering.

My full review here.

CODA

Emilia Jones in CODA / Apple TV.

CODA was such a surprise during Sundance 2021 and I quickly realized that it will become one of my favorite films of the year.

The heartwarming film by Sian Heder tells the story of Ruby (Emilia Jones), who’s the only hearing member of her deaf family from Gloucester. At 17, she works mornings before school to help her parents and brother keep their fishing business afloat. Ruby soon dreams of changing it after joining her high school’s choir club. The young woman finds herself drawn to both her duet partner and her passion for singing.

CODA’s entire cast is beyond incredible. Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant, and Eugenio Derbez deliver an incredible performances with Emilia Jones shining the brightest.

Heder presents a story that is often dismissed or not talked at all. CODA is an incredibly important, empowering, witty, and amusing portrayal of the family—you don’t want to miss it.

Censor

In the Sundance premiere Censor, directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, Enid (played by Niamh Algar) has an unusual job. Depending on the amount of violence in each film, her assignment is to determine whether the horror film passes or is rejected. Her days are saturated with scenes of blood, gore, and oftentimes rape. But she believes thoroughly in her work. Enid prevents people from seeing too much, continuously thinking about their mental health and psyche. She is the titular censor, and she thrives on it.

Censor is set in the 1980s and Prano Bailey-Bond attempts to visualize the streets of Europe of that time period. Viewers have the chance to explore the subject of C-level horror movies and see the United Kingdom as it was forty-something years ago. ’80s Europe is much different than 80s America. In the film, it’s much more poignant. Gloomier. The director captures that gloom perfectly well. It manifests itself not only in the characters. We can see it in the phenomenal production design by Paulina Rzeszowska (also of Saint Maud) who uses every surface she can work with.

Censor is one of the films that shock you by what you see on the screen. The reality blends with a dream while we experience the spotlight on video nasties and how they thrived. Very worth watching.

My full review here.

Playing with Sharks

Valerie Taylor in Paying With Sharks

In the documentary, Playing with Sharks, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Sally Aitken showcases Taylor’s remarkable life and ends this documentary with a touching finale. The film is now available to watch on Disney+.

Valerie Taylor, a remarkable scuba diver, started spearfishing in the ’60s. She was one of the few women who took part in this activity. One could always notice her. Taylor always wore a pink or a red suit; a color that was not accidental. It was to commemorate the legendary Jacques Cousteau and his ever-present red cap. She was a force of nature wherever she went. Even in the typically masculine field of work, Valerie quickly showed other divers that she was equal to them. Aitken ensures that we, as an audience, fully see Valerie’s adventurous life by presenting us the footage that has been collected over the decades of her and her husband’s journeys.

Sharks are one of the most magnificent and powerful creatures of ocean life. Their majestic beauty manifests in many of their species. People like Valerie Taylor uphold said beauty and showcase it to us everyday individuals to better understand them. Playing with Sharks is a must-watch for everybody. It’s a film that gives us an interesting insight into the life of one amazing woman who wasn’t afraid of playing with sharks. 

My full review here.

Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo in Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar.

The plot of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar can be divided into two parts. First, we are introduced to two middle-aged best friends, Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig), who lose their jobs at “the hottest place in town”, a furniture store, Jennifer Convertibles. After their mutual friend convinces them to try something new, Barb and Star travel to the mysterious, most gorgeous place on Earth—Vista Del Mar. However, before the audience even gets to know them, there is an opening scene that contains something else entirely.

Soon after, we discover that Sharon Gordon Fisherman (portrayed by Wiig also) seeks revenge on a small ocean town; surprise, surprise, it’s Vista Del Mar! As she was bullied because of her skin condition, Sharon, with Edgar’s help (Jamie Dornan)—the man who holds a massive crush on his boss, plans to send mutated killer mosquitoes to the vacation place. That, of course, is supposed to happen when Barb and Star are there.

As this love letter is being written, the words aren’t enough to fully articulate how much we needed this film right now. While it’s always worth it to watch a film that fills our hearts with emotions and lets our minds reflect long after, we are also in dire need of something light that will take us and surround us with as much confusing yet hilarious weirdness as possible. This is what Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar achieves. Please don’t wait and go see it because it’s just a so gosh darn great film. 

My full article here.

Nomadland

Frances McDormand in the film NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios.

Nomadland, directed by Chloé Zhao and based on Jessica Bruder’s book, is a captivating story of a woman’s journey across America and becoming a modern-day nomad in the post-Great Recession era. While the film explores the issues of poverty and the consequences of economic failure, its true magic lies within the amazing stories that Fern (Frances McDormand) hears throughout her voyage, and the strong relationships she builds. Nomadland, in its most prominent aspect, teaches us the value of living in the now.

Over the course of her travels, Fern re-learns how to live and experiences newfound happiness caused by seemingly insignificant events. Zhao infuses the simple task of Fern learning how to change a tire with unexpected import. Just dancing with her new friends, or going with Dave to the zoo and marveling at the animals she sees, we get to live in the joy of the mundane along with her.      

The story of Nomadland is a humbling experience to me and makes me think about my own past life experiences. It helps me appreciate seemingly inconsequential moments between me and my relatives or friends. In perspective, they are the ones that I come back to the most.

Nobody

Bob Odenkirk in Nobody.

The first scene that comes to mind when I think of Nobody is when Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) gracefully approaches the record player, inserts the vinyl, and slowly lowers the needle. Suddenly, everything bursts into flames. Hutch’s entire vinyl collection burns in front of our eyes. As an avid vinyl collector, I was deeply hurt by the scene. But, as a fan of Nobody and Ilya Naishuller’s thrilling direction, I was blown away by almost every scene and fight choreography in the film.

If you had to describe Odenkirk’s Hutch, it appears that “quiet” and “ordinary” are two of the best words to use. The lead, however, makes sure that we keep changing our minds and second-guessing the next move. When Hutch’s home is broken into, the man is driven to violent vengeance and an inevitable reckoning with his own past.

Nobody is a film that is worth seeing multiple times. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before–it’s not your typical action film. Odenkirk wreaks havoc, and after watching this one, you’ll probably want a kitty cat bracelet. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Don’t Look Up

Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence in Don’t Look Up / Netflix.

Don’t Look Up is definitely amongst my favorite films of 2021. The dark, hilarious and extremely relatable satire by Adam McKay is off the chains. The entire cast ensemble brings something interesting, witty to the table. Each of them represents something else.

But who deserves the standing applause? It’s, without a doubt, Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio. This talented duo of actors, as Kate and Randall, two geeky astrologists who discover the comet coming to the Earth really stood out and did an incredible job. It’s one of the films that will remain relatable for quite some time.

Another solid part of the film is the script. You know that moment in Don’t Look Up when Cate Blanchett’s Brie says “I’d rather get drunk and talk shit about people”? Similar witty one-liners fill the script, making it very relatable.

McKay and Sirota wrote brilliant characters and a great premise. One of my favorite part is Lawrence’s Kate trying to figure out why the guy charged them for free snacks the entire movie

The entire film is built around funny situations while delivering a rather sadder, depressing statement. Definitely worth visiting again in the future.

These are the films that, somehow, stayed with me even after watching them. The list is quite personal, with surprising positions. Just a little recommendation at the end of the 2021.

May your new year brings prosperity and happiness!