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‘Pearl’ (Blu-ray review)

With The House of the Devil, Ti West showed that he has a knack for setting films in decades past and making them look like they came straight out of that era.

This was once again the case with X, a subversive horror film set in late 1970s Texas, where a crew of porn creators rent a building on a remote farm to film their next feature.

When the trailer for X was released, many assumed the film would merely be another Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-off, however, as those who have seen X will largely agree, West’s film is a fun and subversive horror romp with a solid mix of humor, gore and rather original narrative twists.

The film also had a big surprise in store for those who stayed until the end credits had finished, as X had a trailer for West’s next film Pearl, which promised to delve further into the world X had established.

And this is probably where I should warn you to stop reading if you have yet to watch X, as I cannot discuss Pearl without spoiling X to some extent.

Still here? Let’s continue.

Much like Mia Goth had portrayed both porn star Maxine and the equally homicidal and horny elderly Pearl in X, West revealed that they had in fact also shot a second film while filming X.

With the eponymous title Pearl, the film centers around the origins of the character who would become the antagonist of X, and where X subverted horror tropes, Pearl is a loopy Technicolor fantasy that tells the story of how a delusional and disturbed country girl with dreams of being a star turns into a serial killer as she lets her dark side take over as her dreams are extinguished one by one.

Filmed in a manner that seeks to emulate the style of old Hollywood grandeur, the visuals are vibrant and bold, which in turn makes the gore pop that much more as Pearl gradually goes further and further off the rails.

The underlying tone of of the film is unsettling, but the viewer is also invited to feel sympathy for Pearl, which may seem like a tall order considering how much joy she finds in killing, but the character is nonetheless compelling in her inherent sadness. This is in no small part thanks to Goth being allowed to run wild with her portrayal of Pearl, as she makes it easy for audiences to invest in the character.

Delivering a stunning performance as Pearl, it is clear that Goth and West have tapped into something rather special with what they have created with X and Pearl, and the monologue towards the end of the film stands out in particular with its simultaneously tragic and disturbing insights into Pearl’s mind.

Having announced a third film will continue the narrative started in X, it will be exciting to see if Goth and West can continue the momentum from Pearl, as the origin story stands out as some of not only the best horror of 2022, but also some of the best and most original output of any film genre this year.

While X was certainly enjoyable, it is the equally bold and tender Pearl that truly elevates this eerie little narrative universe to something exceptional, and hopefully Maxxxine will deliver a spectacular crescendo to cement Goth and West’s trilogy as a particularly memorable entry to annals of horror movie history.

8 out of 10 stars

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Jacob Jaffke, Ti West,
Kevin Turen, Harrison Kreiss

Directed by Ti West 
Written by Ti West and Mia Goth
Based on Characters by Ti West
Starring Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright,
Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro

 

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