Alligators. Sinister senior citizens. Porn stars. Texas circa 1979. Questioning traditional systems of morality. Subverting the male gaze. Throw all of these ingredients into a blender, and you apparently produce a solid slasher film: in this case, the 2022 film “X.”
“Sunday scaries” takes on a quite literal meaning within the sacred stretch of time that is Halloweekend; it was in this spirit that I sought out a fresh horror movie for distraction — or maybe procrastination. Enter the movie “X” — one cannot resist the intrigue of such a sleek letter.
The film’s description lives up to the excitement invoked by its title: A crew of fame-seekers are trying to shoot an adult film on a farm in rural Texas, but something might be a little bit off about their elderly hosts. In fact, “host” might be too warm of a phrase; old Howard and Pearl are less host and more host-ile, if you will. Whether you’re not over Halloween or simply need to feel more alive by watching a slasher film, “X” can accommodate those needs.
“X” feels surprisingly modern. The premise of the movie sounds like something that could have been wildly mistreated: That is, if “X” were written around the time it was set, in the 1970s, it would have been laden with sexism so irritating that it would have been impossible to watch.
But, refreshingly, the women of “X” are in control of their own lives; “I will not accept a life I deserve,” Maxine repeats throughout. Though not fleshed out in the movie, it touches on the fact that she has left a likely oppressive household led by her evangelical father, who now preaches on TV, using his daughter’s life as an “example” that the devil can lure anyone away to a life of sin.God forbid Maxine could have agency — it was the devil that led her to choose her life, not her own bravery in breaking away from what she is used to and making her own way in the world.
Moments of death and sex, both graphic and sometimes intimate, are portrayed here in large amounts; do not watch if you have a weak stomach. But “X” still managed to be sex-positive, which I appreciated, especially in the context of a slasher film, a genre which historically seems to “punish” women for “immoral” acts. Every one of the porn stars is there because they want to be there (“I am a fucking sex symbol”). They are comfortable with enjoying sex, and anyone who judges can — and does — go to hell.
When Lorraine, one of the women on the film crew, wants to take a turn in front of the camera, her film crew boyfriend reveals his true hypocrisy by forbidding her from doing so. Prior to that, her boyfriend reassured her that it was all acting and that his video was art; but when she wanted to act, he suddenly tried to assert dominance because “Lorraine is not like the others in there. She is a nice girl.” I won’t spoil the movie for you, but guess who’s the first to die? Hint: it’s satisfying.
The movie’s villain possessed a gratifyingly fitting motive: the longing for lost vitality and libido. Watching her smear makeup on her face in the mockery of youth is both revolting and a bit sad. Her husband’s rejections of her attempts to initiate sex are honestly a little heart-wrenching, and when they finally work, it is only mildly celebratory. She only loses all sympathy in the final moments of the movie, as she attacks Maxine’s way of life, calling her dirty and not special after Maxine shows some spine.
Coming out of “X,” I felt disgusting, like I was coated in the grime floating atop the murky Texan swamps that the characters inexplicably seemed to enjoy swimming in alone — but this time, at least, it was due to the blood and guts and not sexism. I will take the nauseating squelch of pitchforked-pierced flesh over a man who tries to project his own moral fantasies onto others any given day.
Rorye Jones PO ’22 gaslit herself into thinking she was part of the Roy family after she was spiritually wrecked from watching “Succession” in two weeks while in New York, and spent the rest of her time there aggressively staring down every suited pedestrian (there were a lot) in search of Matthew Macfadyen. She writes for TSL’s TV and film columns.