Porn and gore in 'X', an enjoyable and different horror movie

Horror movies are in fashion. Perhaps it always has been, but in recent years it has been legitimized thanks to new directors who have rescued what many call 'high terror'. Films that mix authoriality and genre in a masterful way, and that have achieved several of the most stimulating works of recent cinema. Jordan Peele, Ari Aster or Robert Eggers, now in theaters with The Northman. This revolution has also occurred thanks to the arrival of female directors in a genre that until now was hyper-masculinized. Rose Glass, Jennifer Kent, Ana Lily Amirpour and, of course, Julia Ducournau, who conquered the Palme d'Or with a film as provocative and as 'Sitges' as Titan.

Names that have also caused a tendency for everything that occurs within terror to have certain pretensions, to be a fiery speech on some issue on the social or political agenda. Terror, in some way, has always reflected the fears of society even if they did not do so in an obvious way. It happened in George A. Romero's zombie movies and has happened to this day. It is not always necessary to put the "message" at the center of everything. Somehow, it seems that horror directors still have to get serious so that critics, festivals and part of the public take them into consideration. That has caused some recent homogenization in the titles that arrived.

Director Ti West is very clear that high terror is not for him. Or, at least, not at the moment. Hardened in bets that drink from the B (or even Z) series cinema to which he always pays homage, he now directs another film that comes as a breath of fresh air precisely because he does not want to be more important than he is. X is a really fun horror movie. A playful, playful and lewd slasher that deep down has a message about sexual repression, about the monsters created under concepts such as guilt and sin. But he does not insist on turning X into a treatise on it, but instead poses it as a context, as a background for his festival of gore scenes that works perfectly.

X is a film that is a tribute to the horror cinema of the time in which it is set, 1979. There is a clear legacy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) in its premise, that of a group of young people who arrive in a town lost in deep America where they are threatened by a stranger who is mercilessly massacring all of them and with the most sadistic and bloody tactics possible. West has the idea of ​​bringing together the horror movies of the time with another boom that emerged in the 70s and had not been mixed with terror, that of porn movies. At the end of the 70s, the arrival of home video was a real boom for pornography, which went from the ostracism of X rooms to the intimacy of homes. The protagonists of X are pioneers who see the business in this change and decide to take advantage of it. Capitalist desires as a turning point towards their own death.

There is also another clear tribute, and it is to Deep Throat but, more than to the film itself, to its protagonist, Linda Lovelace. The protagonist of X —whom she plays with the perfect mix of innocence and gritty Mia Goth— is a young woman who could be a copy of Lovelace. Two young women raised in a repressive family environment, who escape from the family home thanks to strip clubs and, finally, and thanks to a pimp as a boyfriend, to porn. In sex and in their body they see a way to achieve the American dream that they have been sold. The protagonist of X longs for her house, her car, and her independence, and she uses sex as a way to reclaim what she has been told is hers.

The theme of repressed sexuality is present and one of the most original and surprising contributions is discovering that the person who murders is someone who really wants to have sex after years of restraint. It is better not to provide more information so as not to reveal a surprise that, although it is not so much, it does suppose a funny, sarcastic and bad-tempered twist. Low passions as the driving force behind a bloodletting.

West manages to build tension little by little and, until almost an hour of footage passes, the first death does not occur. Of course: once the first one arrives, the rest do not take long to come. They do it in a violent crescendo and gore. There's gore, blood, bulging eyes and exploding heads. Also irony and black humor. You just have to see the way in which the "bad guys" of the show end up.

It is a pity that the director resorts so much to the hackneyed resource of turning up the sound and music to scare. Above all, when its staging is not gimmicky but elegant, thorough and even slow for a slasher in 2022. For this reason, the slamming doors, sound effects and other beginner tricks to get the viewer out of the seat should have been controlled. They don't contribute: here people don't come to be scared, they come to enjoy the mixture of sex, blood and increasingly bizarre deaths. X delivers what he promises, honest fun and lots of hemoglobin.

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