‘Pearl’ and ‘X’ tell two parts of terrifying trilogy

Pearl, breaking into Maxine’s room and staring at her while she sleeps. (photo by A24)

Calling all horror fans! There’s a new slasher series hitting the screens and you’re not going to want to miss it. Over the last month I have been in the Halloween mood, so to start off the holiday season it only made sense for me to watch a new horror film. Ti West’s “X” and “Pearl” are a fantastic watch for people that enjoy unhinged, elevated horror.
“X” and “Pearl” are installments of a trilogy that West has released within the last year. “X” was released first on March 18th, 2022, and earned a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The star studded cast includes Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson and Kid Cudi. Critics are raving about Goth’s portrayals of the characters Maxine, an up-and-coming adult film star, and Pearl, an old woman coping with growing old in the worst ways possible.
Goth is almost unrecognizable in her performance as Pearl, as it took the makeup and special effects team around six hours to apply the prosthetics to her face and body. Goth even had a say in the character’s appearance.
“I think that Mia wanted the audience to connect more with Pearl in a human way instead of being disgusted and freaked out by her,” said Sarah Ruban, makeup and hair stylist for “X” and “Pearl.”
Goth’s first portrayal on the screen is of Maxine, who starts giving herself a pep talk before leaving with her older producer boyfriend and the rest of the cast of their adult film. The group plans on breaking barriers with this film and it did take place in the 1970s, when sex was not a normal conversation between people.
“I will not accept a life that I do not deserve,” said Maxine before leaving her dressing room.
The crew heads to the farm that they rented for the weekend to begin production. The farm owners, Howard and Pearl, have no idea what the group is up to but they can tell they don’t like it – or them. Pearl also takes a liking (or more of an obsession) with Maxine. Pearl’s obsession with Maxine is caused by her jealousy of what she once was, and she believes that Maxine reminds her of herself when she was younger.
I think that “X” was a great piece by West. It had a colorful aesthetic, a great cast and a story about true horror. It didn’t just frighten the audience with hosts or scary guys in masks, but something people are actually scared about: growing old. Luckily for fans like me, we were given a surprise trailer for West’s prequel, which he had shot at the same time as “X.”
“Pearl,” the prequel to “X,” focuses on Pearl and shows how truly demented she’s always been. Pearl has dreams of becoming a famous dancer, but her strict mother wants her to stay at home doing chores and taking care of her father, who is wheelchair-bound. Every time her mother sends her to town to run errands, Pearl stops by the cinema to watch all the dancers in their extravagant costumes and longs for that life.
After meeting a projectionist at the cinema and hearing about the dance auditions for a traveling group, she is influenced to go against her mother’s wishes and sign up for them. For audience members who already watched “X,” they can only imagine what lengths Pearl will go to make her dream a reality.
“I want to be loved by as many people as possible. But truth is, I’m really not a good person,” Pearl said.
The film “Pearl” has a lot less violence depicted on the screen, but it still should be in the horror movie genre. I personally loved the film because West went into more depth on the character of Pearl; the audience can really see how twisted and self-loathing she really is.
Pearl is a complex, lonely character who wishes for more in life than living on a farm and taking care of other people. She had an isolated upbringing that caused her to react in rash and gruesome ways later on in her life. For horror fans that like a good story as much as they like to be scared, “X” and “Pearl” are a great addition to their watch list.