Since groups of people have always had success just hanging out in Texas heat in horror movie history, why not tempt your fate once more, right? One tempting that fate now is Ti West with his newest one, defiantly called X, a modern slasher in which he's credited as a writer and co-editor (with David Kashevaroff) in addition to his directorial duties. In 1979, a troop of three couples rent a guesthouse at an elderly couple's farm to make a pornograhic film before something bloody begins to head their way there. They're led by producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) and Maxine (Mia Goth) who's one of the stars, others being Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Scott Mescudi). The actual filmmaking is done by director RJ (Owen Campbell) and sound recordist Lorraine (Jenna Ortega).
Whether the filmmakers are comfortable having their output classified as a slasher, or just prefer to be somewhere in the horror genre, the thing is that it's a breath of fresh air in any case. West hopefully didn't get too many notes about the build-up because that time is essentially what makes the payoff feel, well, like a real payoff. Great balance has been struck here by setting the mood that something truly vile is going to happen (with or without that first scene), as exemplified by an effective scene featuring an alligator early on or the fake-out with aspect ratio in the first shot. Other side of that coin is that X is genuinely funny while avoiding the whole ''Well, that just happened'' cliché that the genre has relied a lot on lately; humour is perfectly utilised and contrasts nicely with all bloody mayhem that ensues.
Sure, X obviously wears its influences on its sleeve, falling into familiar traps with timing and speed of murderous events, but especially in one aspect it does elevate itself above those movies, which is the cast's work. They're dancing on a tightrope of absurdity and youthful energy and doing it pretty much flawlessly. Goth hides layers upon layers with her character, likely rewarding those who want to watch the film again so it's not a huge surprise that a prequel is already coming. Snow, Mescudi and Henderson have a difficult task where their characters are both in and out of the joke that is this film, but all are just so entertaining that those parts mesh well together in their performances. In terms of crafts, the film doesn't go all out on anything—possibly for budget reasons as shown by New Zealand's locations—but there are few moments where special makeup effects and costumes from Malgosia Turzanska come together to create hauntingly beautiful visuals.
Smileys: Whole cast's performances, humour, atmosphere, directing
Frowneys: Some issues with story
Don't fear the reaper, they just want to cuddle with you while covered in blood.