Thu. Jul 25th, 2024


Mia Goth returns for the third chapter of the X trilogy as an adult film star trying to take a crack at horror while a serial killer stalks the city’s sex workers

Wed 26 Jun 2024 14.00 BST

Director Ti West goes three for three, serving up a horribly watchable new episode in his outrageous black-comic franchise of aspirational horror porn, this time set in 80s Hollywood. Mia Goth returns triumphantly as Maxine, now known as adult movie star MaXXXine Minx, whose traumatic teen story was told in X from 2022 and its 2023 prequel Pearl. West mulches up a thick impasto of pulp, gore, filth and fear and gets away with some colossally self-aware scenes, including one in the Bates Motel set on the Universal studio lot, and one under the Hollywood sign; there is also some blue chip acting talent in the supporting roles.

The year is 1985 in sunny Los Angeles and the titles for this film are striped across the screen in Flashdance-type lettering, flickering a little at the edges as if being broadcast on live TV. Ronald Reagan is telling America its best days are by no means behind it; Frankie Goes to Hollywood and ZZ Top are on the turntable and at one cinema Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary is evidently being shown for one night only. MaXXXine is now in her early 30s; a ruthless survivor and Ripleyesque careerist, she is determined to crown her work in porn with a crossover to horror, from where the further move into legitimate movie stardom is surely but a small step.

MaXXXine is trying out for a horror sequel called The Puritan II, with the fatherly support of her agent Teddy (Giancarlo Esposito) and her best friend, video store assistant Leon (Moses Sumney). But things are not easy: there is a serial killer terrorising women in the city with a penchant for professionals in the sex industry; on the monster’s trail are LAPD cops Detective Williams (Michelle Monaghan), who is not convinced that all the corpses are attributable to the same sicko, and her dopey partner Detective Torres (Bobby Cannavale), whose witness-questioning is ruined by his histrionic tough-guy persona – just as he used to mess up in the days when he was himself trying to be a professional actor. MaXXXine is also being a menaced by a sweaty, creepy private detective called John Labat, who knows something of her past, played with relish and a twang by Kevin Bacon.

But the film is almost stolen by the statuesque and charismatic Elizabeth Debicki in giant padded shoulders, amusingly playing Elizabeth Bender, a haughty, demanding British movie director, and MaXXXine’s mentor. It is of course the fate of any actor who ever plays a member of the British royal family to be haunted by that persona afterwards, and it’s impossible to watch Debicki’s imperious performance without thinking that The Crown’s Princess Diana must have somehow got a gig directing a horror film, perhaps embittered by her marriage to Charles, being mean to the crew in that estuary-posh voice and laying down the law about the correct way blood has to spurt from various orifices. And it is Bender who is coolly contemptuous of the religious moral majority demonstrators who are always trying to disrupt filming: “Angry people are so easy to lead,” she says, shrewdly.

In the first X, Ti West was channelling Tobe Hooper; now he is giving us something closer to the Shane Black of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang though with an ironised hint of Paul Schrader’s Hardcore from 1979. I look forward to MaXXXine’s reincarnation for the fourth film in the Clinton 90s as a venture capital entrepreneur investing in online adult content; maybe the title could be ClimaXLove.

• MaXXXine is released in the US and UK on 5 July, and in Australia on 8 August.

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#MaXXXine #review #horribly #watchable #Hollywood #tale #sex #death #fear #gore #Film

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