Roll Film with Pearl


Charlie Barron, Reporter

The newest slasher franchise from this year began with X (2022), an A24 project that was heavily influenced on dirty horrors such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The prequel to X, Pearl (2022), was a surprise horror release of the year, and had an even more groundbreaking visual identity than its predecessor. 

While originally making the film X, writer/director Ti West was thinking up ideas for a potential backstory for Mia Goth’s character Pearl from X. In the film, Goth plays the starring role of Maxine, one of the young main characters and only survivor of X’s climax, as well as playing the main villain of the film Pearl. As Pearl, Goth went through hours of prosthetic makeup to make her look as old and decrepit as possible, creating a monster that is completely unrecognizable from her second role in X. 

Secretly starting production as soon as X was finished, the new project was decided between West and Goth to be a prequel, exploring the makings of Goth’s elderly character from the first film set in the year 1918. 

Pearl as a film has a completely different tone and approach to horror than X. While reusing the same leading lady, West was also able to reuse the sets from the first film, as both take place in Pearl’s family farmstead in Texas. While X dealt with a group of young people going into an unknown place and being picked off by a mysterious killer, Pearl’s approach to scares comes from the viewer’s following of Goth as a young Pearl, who slowly becomes more unhinged as the film progresses. The Pearl that is shown in X is a sad, slow-moving old woman filled with regrets and murderous intent. This is in stark contrast to her younger characterization in Pearl, in which she dances from scene to scene with an almost Disney-esque expression on her face.

Goth’s performance is no doubt the standout of the film, as she plays a young woman unsatisfied with living on a farm with her cold mother and invalid father, and dreams of being a star. There are many scenes in which she shows off how flexible she is, as she acts full scenes opposite her unmoving father, multiple expressionless farm animals, and an inanimate scarecrow in one of the film’s most iconically disturbing visuals. 

The film’s tone is reflective of just how different Mia Goth plays it in this movie as opposed to in X, which results in a campier romp that is mostly set during the day time, which includes scenes that break reality like colorful dance sequences. The viewer is mounted on Pearl’s shoulder throughout the entire film, which underlies the real horror of the piece, which is Pearl’s dangerous delusions. 

Looking forward, Ti West has already announced plans for a third installment in this new franchise, with MaXXXine, set after the events of X, set to release in 2023. X draws closely from its grindhouse origins and has a setting in the 1970s, while Pearl chronicles her upbringing in the 1910s. MaXXXine is going to be set in the 1980s, and will follow Goth’s other character from X as she tries to become a Hollywood star, mirroring her journey as Pearl.