By Liliana Cifuentes | October 24, 2022
Photo Credit: Cult MTL
Rating: This is a mature film, so please don’t bring your kids! The film is strictly for audiences ages 18 and above.
After the success of his X franchise’s first film, it was no surprise that slasher genre fanatics were highly anticipating the release of Ti West’s Pearl: An X-traordinary Origin Story. The prequel, starring Mia Goth as the titular character, transforms what begins as a lighthearted origin story into a twisted, psychological terror that culminates in bloodshed.
West’s first film, X, introduced viewers to Pearl, an elderly woman who watched longingly as her dreams of becoming a successful entertainer were being pursued by a group of actors shooting an adult film on her property. As the story progresses, viewers are made aware of Pearl’s psychopathic tendencies when she embarks on a murderous rampage that results in only one of the actors escaping and Pearl’s husband, Howard, dying from a heart attack.
Which begged the question: How did Pearl become so violent?
Pearl, which debuted in theaters on Sept. 16, delves into the younger version of the woman whose hobbies include murdering livestock and slow dancing with scarecrows. The year is 1918, and all that is on Pearl’s mind is escaping the farm she lives on to go to a faraway world where she can acquire her claim to fame. The one problem? Her no-nonsense mother forbids her from doing anything other than tending to her wheelchair-ridden father’s needs.
In Pearl, West and Goth were presented with the challenge of bringing to life the fears that come with being a young adult through the effective usage of gore. While many people usually let their claim to fame slip by, an ax-wielding Pearl makes it clear she’d do anything to ensure her name is on every lit-up sign. Viewers receive a stellar depiction of a sentiment most of us can identify with: the uncertainties that often follow us when we stray away from the norm. It’s hard to believe that such a compelling story was written by West and Goth in two weeks.
For those who are fans of slasher films, Pearl certainly delivers the ‘slash’ factor both in terms of the amount of carnage present and through its ability to shock the audience, a quality that, nowadays, is difficult to come across. In recent years, the slasher genre has been criticized for its inability to portray an unpredictable sequence of events. Pearl, however, leaves viewers at the edge of their seat through Goth’s jaw-dropping performance of a character whose spontaneity drives her to insanity.
Without question, the most memorable features of the film were the nine-minute monologue delivered by Goth in its final act and the close-up shot of her smiling creepily into the camera. Although Goth’s portrayal of Pearl was Oscar worthy as is, her ability to speak for such a long period of time emphasized and brought clarity to the complex nature of her character. The monologue leaves mouths agape as Pearl reveals her twisted psyche to Missy, her sister-in-law, in which she admits her wrongdoings.
The brilliant performances brought to the forefront by Goth and costar Tandi Wright, Pearl’s mother, were also noteworthy. Between Goth’s delivery of an unconstrained free spirit and Wright’s cold, dissenting demeanor (not to mention her German accent being spot-on), the two effectively showcase the consequences that occur when a bond between a mother and her daughter is strained.
Malgosia Turzanska’s choice in costume design gave viewers the chance to time travel back into a WW1-fighting era where technicolor cinema was in its infancy. Pearl’s outfit changes provide the perfect balance of farm girl and Old Hollywood. At the farmhouse where she lived, Pearl was spotted wearing a denim overall ensemble. At the theater, Pearl donned long dresses that frilled at the sleeves and pooled at the ankles. The change in costuming only furthered our comprehension of how Pearl viewed herself on a much higher pedestal in comparison to how she was actually viewed by her family, “friends” and others.
Overall, I’d give Pearl an 8/10. I’d recommend this masterpiece of a film to those who love films that are both gory and psychologically horrifying. It’s perfect to watch right before Halloween, but make sure you watch X first to fully understand Pearl’s point of view. A third film, titled MaXXXine, is in the works.
Pearl is available to watch in select movie theaters now.