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  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: Universal

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Mia Goth takes a pitchfork to the competition in Ti West’s deliciously spiky prequel to ‘X’

In Ti West’s 2022 zoomer horror X, Mia Goth played two roles: a young porn actress, and an old woman, Pearl. In this prequel, Goth plays the younger Pearl, who must surely have endured some terrible trauma to become a murderously jealous OAP. Or did she? Was she born bad, or did factors push this potential sociopath over the edge? West and co-writer Goth have fun asking these questions in an entertaining blend of shockfest and movie pastiche that’s given weight by a bewitching turn from the stellar Goth.

Set on the same farm as X, it sees Pearl visibly frustrated by life in rural Texas in 1918. There’s a flu pandemic and her husband, Howard, is away at war. Pearl is stuck with her stern German mother (Tandi Wright) and her paralysed father (Matthew Sunderland). She has a disturbing, almost incestuous fascination with his immobilised condition, which gives her a power she’s otherwise lacking in life.

Thankfully (sort of), she reserves her sexual power for the local scarecrow, in a heightened and darkly hilarious scene that references The Wizard of Oz. When she meets a handsome projectionist, Pearl feels stirrings towards more mobile targets. But her desire to leave town and become a chorus dancer puts everyone around her in danger – and us on tenterhooks.

Goth is bewitching in an entertaining blend of shockfest and movie pastiche 

On the one hand, Pearl offers an empathetic look at the women who are left to pick up the pieces while men are off killing each other; on the other, it’s a panicked portrait of an ambitious, frustrated woman whose disregard for morality and refusal to accept obstacles makes her so dangerous. One riveting monologue gives a dramatic insight into the confusion of a sociopathic mind. 

Part drama-thriller, part OTT slasher, Pearl doesn’t particularly resolve its internal conflicts, but it does hold the attention. The creepy question of how far this disturbed woman will take her urges makes this as psychologically twisted as you want it to be in your imagination. Oh, and there’s one more question: will there be any more dark recesses of the human psyche left for West and Goth’s trilogy closer, MaXXXine, to explore?

In UK cinemas Mar 17. On PVOD in the US now.

Written by
Anna Smith

Cast and crew

  • Director:Ti West
  • Screenwriter:Ti West, Mia Goth
  • Cast:
    • Mia Goth
    • Tandi Wright
    • Matthew Sunderland
    • Emma Jenkins-Purro
    • Alistair Sewell
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