I do love it when a film surprises me. With so many trailers now essentially being condensed summaries of entire plots, it often feels like it’s impossible to watch them without having every element of the unknown shattered into a thousand pieces. X was quite different in that regard. Its trailer teased a few things, but what it delivered was a delightfully graphic porno slasher that injects a little summer into something absolutely smacking of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The film follows a group of actors who set out to shoot an adult film in a farmhouse in rural Texas. However, after clashing with their hosts and their activities becoming common knowledge to them, things take a turn, and they all end up in a very bloody fight for their lives.
Pop culture can transport you to any time of its choosing
Provided the attention to detail is there, you are too. It cannot be overstated how well X encapsulated the era it was set in. The 1979 setting and how well the film came over as a whole is perhaps a symbiotic relationship. Considering the types of low-budget, groundbreaking horror that was being made around that time, and the similarities between that and the more independent side of the adult film industry, it was very believable as a general concept.
Stylistic editing touches like the film’s end card took it this step further, however other choices made didn’t quite land for me. One of my biggest gripes was the side-swipe transitions used on a handful of occasions throughout – they never once failed to completely lift me out of the film, which was a real shame.
Horror suits the 70s
We cannot ignore how well suited both of these genres of film are to the 70s aesthetic, especially in terms of American filmmaking. The bold orange-teal look is very present, and really adds to the close, sweaty, swampy feeling that X carries with it. Sprinkle on top of that the banging soundtrack (which is fantastic by the way) and you basically have a starter kit for anyone wanting to style themselves out for a grown-up long hot American summer.
It was so good to see the horror swing big and hit big too. Having already mentioned the film’s graphic nature at the start, it won’t surprise you when I say there are some nasty kills – after all, X is not a film that was made with moderation in mind. Be prepared to wince! However, as much as it delivered on this aspect, it didn’t rely solely on it. It also dealt with tension brilliantly in my opinion, with the build-up to some moments being absolutely unbearable. Anyone who has seen X will know what scene in particular I’m talking about here.
How can you fear what’s coming next when you don’t know what that is?
Looking back on it, for suspense to play such a significant role in the film is interesting, as you would think it’d be hard to build when, for the most part, you couldn’t really tell what exactly was coming next. However, it did become clear early on that whatever came next wouldn’t be anything nice, regardless of what it actually turned out to be, so presumably even a ballpark guess is enough for it to work when an overall air of discomfort and unpleasantness is already in the mix.
The pacing was pretty decent too – I remember being intrigued by the fact it lay between the 90mins-or-less and two-and-half-hours goal posts, which doesn’t seem to be happening too often with horror lately. Whilst there were a couple of scenes that felt a bit unnecessary, and as far as I could tell didn’t serve the main thread in any way, I didn’t find myself desperately longing for it to be over, and certainly when X hit its stride in the second half I didn’t want it to end. Something that gave rise to this late-blooming great affection for the film was the fact that it killed it’s characters off in the right order, and gave my least favourite the most gruesome death – a HUGE win.
I dare say that X may be one of my favourite films of 2022 so far
It ticked an awful lot of boxes for me, and although helped by the element of surprise on this first viewing, I would love the chance to go back and see it on the big screen again, this time fully braced and ready for what’s going to go down. It looks fantastic; is everything you’d want a 70s-esque porno slasher to be, and above all else it was so unexpected. Unmissable.
Seeing as you’re here…
Have a read of my thoughts on Scream – the fifth instalment of the iconic horror franchise?