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MaXXXine (A Movie Review)


Starring Mia Goth, Elizabeth Debicki, Moses Sumney, Michelle Monaghan, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, Kevin Bacon, Sophie Thatcher, Ned Vaughn, Chloe Farnworth, Simon Prast, Charley Rowan McCain, Brad Swanick, Uli Latukefu, Susan Pingleton, Daniel Lench, Zachary Mooren, Marcus LaVoi, Albert Kong and Toby Huss.

Screenplay by  Ti West.

Directed by Ti West.

Distributed by A24. 104 minutes. Rated R.

As Ti West and Mia Goth’s X saga may or may not be ending – West has been teasing the idea of making a fourth installment – you have to admit it’s been a pretty interesting ride.

Writer/director West (The Innkeepers, House of the Devil) and his girlfriend / muse / collaborator Goth have made three massively different films in just about two years, with some of the same characters (in fact, Goth played two very different characters in the first film) but different time periods and different styles.

Yes, they work as horror films, but they are even more intriguing as celebrations of filmmaking and styles. For example, the original X took place 1979 and is a tribute to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which a small cast and crew making a porno film at a remote farm is mowed down violently by the elderly owner of the farm. (Goth played both one of the potential victims and under a ton of aging makeup the killer.)

The second film in the series was Pearl, a prequel which took place in 1919 and takes a look at the killer, Pearl, as a young woman. (Goth, again, plays the role.) Because it is an entirely different world, West used a very different filming style, more like an extremely bloody version of one of Douglas Sirk’s complex, serious appraisals of modern manners.

MaXXXine is probably the least adventurous of the three films – and it changes in style less dramatically. This bloody look at the Hollywood dream is pretty similar in style to the classic horror films that also inspired X, however because this one takes place in 1985, they add in a bit of hyperactive Miami Vice-style editing. 

In this film, Goth is back to playing Maxine, the young porn actress who ended up surviving the massacre at the farm film shoot six years earlier. At this point, Maxine has become something of a star in the burgeoning video porn world – although not such a big star that she doesn’t have to occasionally supplement her income by doing live sex shows in a glass booth in a local X-rated bookstore.

However, Maxine isn’t satisfied with just being a porn star. She wants to go legit and make actual films. She gets her big break when she is hired to star in a cheap straight-to-video sequel called The Puritan II. Still she sees this as her entrée to the big time.

There are only a couple of problems. People around her start being brutally murdered – apparently the victims of The Night Strangler (a real-life LA serial killer from the era who is mixed into the plot fairly cleverly). Also, there is a sleazy private detective (Kevin Bacon) following her who seems to know about her part in the 1979 killings, although she has never told anyone else what happened to her on that Texas farm.

Honestly, MaXXXine is probably the weakest film of the series so far, and the lead character shows an odd mixture of ballsiness and timidity depending on the situations. Still, there is lots to enjoy in this fun and funny grindhouse film. For the first time in the series they invite on board some fairly big name actors to join in the fun. (If you consider Kevin Bacon, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Monaghan, Lily Collins and Giancarlo Esposito to be Hollywood names – which I do….)

It's a fun mix of 80s nostalgia, show business satire and cheesy slasher vibes, with a slightly obvious (and at the same time a bit nonsensical) ending. However, movies like this are not really supposed to make narrative sense, they are supposed to make you laugh and make you cry out. In this way, MaXXXine mostly works.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: July 4, 2024.


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