“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+

Retrospective Review: “AHS: 1984” offers an 80’s nostalgia, but lacks the “American Horror Story” vibe—And It’s Not A Bad Thing!

As a person born in the 90s, with an old soul who’s in love with Etta James or Siouxsie and The Banshees, the love for the 80s shouldn’t come as a surprise. And although 1984 lacked a specific atmosphere that the American Horror Story franchise provides, it’s not a bad thing. On the contrary—it offers something new. 

The glorious time of the 80s was not only great because of the legendary music, or eccentric clothing. It possesses its richness and interest thanks to many slasher films created at that time. Such films as Friday The 13th or I Know What You Did Last Summer inspired another season of the franchise. As a person born in the 90s, with an old soul who’s in love with Etta James or Siouxsie and The Banshees, the love for the 80s shouldn’t come as a surprise. And although Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s AHS:1984 lacked a specific atmosphere that the American Horror Story franchise usually provides, it’s not a bad thing. On the contrary—it offers something fresh. 

1984, California. Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts), Montana Duke (Billie Lourd), Xavier Plympton (Cody Fern), Chet Clancy (Gus Kenworthy), and Ray Powell (DeRon Horton) meets at the dance aerobics class supervised by Montana. Shortly after, the group decides to sign up as counselors at the infamous Camp Redwood, where a gruesome massacre transpired fourteen years ago. 

As the group listens to Donna’s story (Angelica Ross) and chats by the fire, they have absolutely no idea that Mr. Jingles, aka Benjamin Richter (John Carroll Lynch), escapes an insane asylum and follows the path to his past, tightly connected with God-fearing camp owner, Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman). At the same time, another famous serial killer travels to Camp Redwood to kill the victim that escaped him back in Los Angeles. 

The plot takes its time and, as a result, possesses a few snoozes here and there. Some scenes seem to be quite monotonous, but they prove to be beneficial for the story in the end. The narrative is cheesy, campy, and cartoonish, but it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be—a reflection of the 80s in horror, the existence and evolution of slashers and brutal serial killers. 

The season is not without stumbles, but good elements win over the flaws. The script is imaginative and enjoyable as the blood splatters everywhere and body parts fly all over the place. Nonetheless, 1984 still seems to be less bloody than, for example, Hotel or less suspenseful than Asylum

Murphy and Falchuk blend their legendary cast with new faces, creating an unusual combination. Characters are well-crafted and maintain their momentum where it’s necessary. Although the lack of the scream queen of the television or, for others, Sarah Paulson this season certainly takes its toll on the season. The character development varies from one role to another. Chet and Ray’s characters are the setting for Margaret, Nurse Rita, or Brooke, who are at the forefront of the plot. 

Leslie Grossman as Margaret Booth / FX Networks.

What easily focuses the attention is a phenomenal, hyperbolic performance of Leslie Grossman as a religious freak, Margaret Booth. Her eccentric wardrobe filled with tailor-made suits, a hairstyle like Ivana Trump, and the exaggerated statements about God will remind you of your weird aunt who comes to visit you now and then and decides to control your life for the five-hour visit span. Alongside Grossman, Angelica Ross, likewise, deserves applause. Previously known from her role in Pose, Ross’ character is a career-driven woman with an ambitious yet intriguing fixation for serial killers and their anthropology. Ross’ nurse Rita, aka Donna Chambers, would be a great conversation starter on the topic of how far you can go in the name of science and your family.

A great surprise was the role of Roberts as a shy, young Brooke Thompson. The last name is no accident; it’s a little ode for Wes Craven’s The Nightmare on Elm Street and Heather Langenkamp’s character. The role was a nice change for Roberts to play someone other than the ignorant, entitled type she’s known from, for example, in Coven or Wild Child. We also need to thank the casting team, who selected Zach Villa as a young Richard Ramirez. Both him and John Carroll Lynch did a magnificent job in the season.

The excellent, greatly written 80s nostalgia manifests itself in many different elements—neon-styled lighting and the feeling of restlessness create a perfect setting for horror and 80s fans. However, it would be nothing without a fitting soundtrack. The music tones are mostly led by Billi Idol, his White Wedding, and even more cult songs.

The season provides much fun, especially for the fans that seek nostalgia in cinema and television. That is precisely the essence of AHS: 1984—the fantastic narrative that is a return to the slasher culture and the subgenre’s birth. Although it’s not the best entry to the franchise, it’s certainly a success among the fans.

AHS: 1984 is streaming on Netflix and Hulu. 

‘Halloween Kills’ is A Bloodthirsty, Gory Spectacle Filled With Campy One-Liners

Halloween Kills is a crazy rollercoaster filled to the brim with blood, a high body count, elaborate kills, and a hysterical, entertaining script. The slasher directed by David Gordon Green, a creator of the 2018 chapter, will be a feast for the Michael Myers fans, but it may not be to everybody’s taste.

Michael Myers (aka The Shape) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green

When we hear Michael Myers’s name, we immediately think of a white mask, a work coveralls in a dark blue/gray color, or a bloody knife. Everyone knows his name, whether they’ve seen the slasher franchise or not. This Halloween season, Michael Myers is back, wanting to spill more blood. Halloween Kills is a crazy rollercoaster filled to the brim with gore, a high body count, elaborate kills, and a hysterical, entertaining script. The slasher directed by David Gordon Green, a creator of the 2018 chapter, will be a feast for the Michael Myers fans, but it may not be to everybody’s taste.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been on the run from the masked killer for quite some time. Forty years, to be exact, as mentioned frequently by the film’s characters. Following the events of the previous part, Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are transported to Haddonfield Hospital. Meanwhile, the infamous Boogeyman flees the burning building (sic!), killing many first responders in the process. Shortly after, the plot of Halloween Kills picks up when Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lonnie (Robert Longstreet), Lindsey (Kyle Richards), and the nurse Marion (Nancy Stephens)—all of whom are survivors of previous encounters with Michael—band together with other residents of Haddonfield to apprehend the killer and ultimately defeat him.

There are horror films that shake the audience to their core and psychological horror films with deeper meanings. There are also slashers, a horror subgenre. Its most significant components are blood, killings, and cheesy dialogues. Halloween Kills has all of the above. The horror is a fun ride for fans of the franchise and horror films in general. This time, Laurie Strode takes a back seat as the younger generation takes the reign. After the turbulent events and the death of her husband, Karen is shaken and more cautious, insisting on keeping watch by her mother’s hospital bed. Allyson, on the other hand, desires the opposite – the young woman is filled with rage and a want for vengeance. Greer and Matichak are a fabulous mother-daughter duo who especially steps into the spotlight. Especially Matichak as determined Allyson who refuses to give up gives a great performance.

Dylan Arnold, Andi Matichak, and Robert Longstreet in Halloween Kills.

The return of Kyle Richards and Nancy Stephens is a tempting prospect that tremendously intrigued the audience and die-hard fans of the 1978 slasher; finally, two of the original characters return to confront Michael. Unfortunately, while it was a great idea on paper, the film doesn’t devote enough time to the legendary characters. Instead, Anthony Michael Hall takes the narrative and transforms it into a battle between Michael and the residents of Haddonfield. Beware, the phrase “Evil dies tonight” is repeated frequently, and whether it was a coincidence or a deliberate goal, it provides excellent entertainment and an occasional eye roll. It also opens a possibility to a great drinking game.

The Halloween franchise is a lot of things, but cheesy was never one of them, at least not to this extent. However, because of Kills‘ over-the-top script, many hilarious one-liners become stuck in one’s head. The chapter ups the ante on the body count, which is exactly what we want from a slasher. Michael also gets very creative with the death scenes, whether it’s eyes popping out of the skull, a cracked bottle slicing the neck or a chainsaw.

It’s not advisable to look for logic or an ambitious script. Otherwise, you’ll be let down. Michael Myers is The Shape, The Boogeyman, the figure in the shadows who creeps up on you and murders you when you least expect it. But he won’t die, no matter how many times you shoot him, slice him, kick him, or even try to burn him. Instead, he wants to return to his childhood home, walk upstairs, and stand quietly by the window, staring at himself in the mirror. The sooner people grasp it, the better!

Best advice? Expect blood, guts, broken limbs, and cheesiness, and you’ll have the best time with the slasher. That is precisely why the film works. It’s difficult to say if this was David Gordon Green’s specific goal or not. Nonetheless, if you’re a Michael Myers fan, Halloween Kills provides plenty of entertainment. It’s a film that will surely diversify the audience and may spark a polarizing discussion. But, without a doubt, it’s a great position for the spooky season.

Grade: 7 out of 10

Halloween Kills is currently in cinemas as well as on Peacock with an upgraded subscription.

TIFF21 Capsule Review: “Petite Maman” is An Imaginative, Emotional, Innocent Drama About Childlike Wonder

etite Maman, written and directed by Sciamma, tells an extraordinary story. The film’s imaginative viewpoint and truths hidden between the lines all resurface at the film’s emotional conclusion.

Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz in “Petite Maman” / Neon.

We’ve all felt a pull towards our heritage, our family’s past, especially as children. We want to know what our parents were like when they were our age. In their spare time, what did they enjoy doing? Petite Maman is about all of this, but it’s so much more. Céline Sciamma’s latest drama film is an elaborative, often emotional film that beautifully depicts a mother-daughter relationship, family ties, and the magic of childlike wonder.

After 8-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) loses her grandmother, whom she adored, the little girl assists her mother (Nina Meurisse) and father (Stéphane Varupenne) in cleaning her mother’s childhood home located near the forest. Shortly after, Nelly meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) as she explores the surrounding area. Struggling to accept her grandmother’s death, Nelly helps the newly-met friend build a hut in the middle of the forest. The girls grow closer to each other over time, sharing many secrets that connect them in an unusual, beautiful way. 

sJoséphine Sanz and Nina Meurisse in “Petite Maman” / Neon.

Petite Maman begins quietly, nostalgically, and subtly, laced with sadness, departure, and grief. Because of personal reasons, the first act hits extremely close to home. My wound from losing my grandmother not long ago hasn’t healed yet. As a result, watching Sciamma’s latest work feels extremely relatable. Especially when Nelly tells her mother, “I didn’t say goodbye to her. The last goodbye wasn’t good. Because I didn’t know”. The similarities don’t end with that. In addition, as a young girl, I lived very close to the forest. I spent time exploring various paths, just as Nelly, and discovering many hiding spots.

Although initially very personal and heartbreaking, the film has a rather innocent tone as told from the perspectives of Nelly and Marion. Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz are at the heart of the film, stealing the spotlight from every other supporting character. The young actresses are thoroughly endearing and sweet. Their characters truly embody the childlike wonder and curiosity that we, as adults, often lose as we get older.

Petite Maman, written and directed by Sciamma, tells an extraordinary story. The film’s imaginative viewpoint and truths hidden between the lines all resurface at the film’s emotional conclusion.

The film is an excellent choice to kick off the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s subtle but powerful. It’s both innocent and heartbreaking. It will elicit reflection afterward and linger in our minds as we go about our day.

Grade: 10 out of 10.