Film Review: MaXXXine; Ti West’s X trilogy comes to a sleazy, slashing close

Back in March of 2022, Ti West birthed a horror trilogy the genre didn’t know it needed.

X, a 1970s-set porn shoot-turned-massacre tale, indulged in its dirty aesthetic, before its 1918-set prequel, Pearl, arrived mere months later, similarly revelling in its own unique temperament, one that came across like The Wizard of Oz on a hormonal acid trip.

Continuing his specificity in catering the carnage to the era, his trilogy closer, MaXXXine, takes place in the grunge of the 1980s film scene.  The titular anti-heroine, Maxine Minx (played with the expected bravado of Mia Goth), having survived the brutality of X‘s events at the hands of the demented Pearl (who Goth also portrayed as the younger version in her solo feature, and as the older, bitter embodiment in X), has since made a name for herself in the adult film world, but is looking to make the segue into legitimate cinema, believing a role in a B-grade horror movie is the right step.

With the 1985 backdrop incorporating the real-life Night Stalker murders, West injects the film with a sleaze that brings to mind such auteurs as Brian De Palma and Dario Argento, successfully recreating the Hollywood of that period, both aesthetically and in his own shooting style; when the film leans into its slasher-like mentality, the gory practical effects and almost slow-motion actions of knives plunging into helpless flesh can’t help but bring us back to the glory days of VHS violence.

Whilst Maxine is all-too aware that the Night Stalker is roaming the streets of Los Angeles, she is more than capable of handling herself (one particularly squeamish sequence in a back alley more than proves this), but whether or not it’s actually the infamous serial killer or another figure entirely is part of the mystery West unravels across the film’s 104 minutes.

Her friends are disappearing one by one, she’s receiving mysterious mail from someone who’s aware of her Texas massacre survival, and a sleazy P.I. (played gloriously by Kevin Bacon) happily announces himself as something of a representative to said unknown killer, leaving Maxine to take it upon herself to solve such a case; inept murder investigating duo (Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan) be damned.

Of course, Maxine being an actress with ambition means that none of this will ultimately deter her from her dream.  Working on the horror sequel The Puritan II under the direction of no-nonsense girlboss Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki, divine), Maxine lives by her mantra of not accepting a life she doesn’t deserve, and takes it to the literal end when Elizabeth tells her to take the weekend to sort out whatever it is that’s distracting her.

With such a fabulous ensemble – which also includes Lily Collins as The Puritan II‘s returning lead, singer Halsey as a porn star acquaintance of Maxine’s, Giancarlo Esposito as a deliciously quaffed film agent, and Moses Sumney as a video store clerk – and a clear sense of humour it’s a shame that MaXXXine‘s central narrative doesn’t strike as hard as its predecessors.  Given its 80s setting, West can get away with the big reveal being a little silly, and the Night Stalker incorporation ultimately adds up to nothing, but where X and Pearl felt like they had something to say, MaXXXine is just a more playful adlib.

Regardless of MaXXXine‘s style over substance and eventual lightness – ironic in a film centred around the porn industry, horror films and Satanic Panic – West’s love of the genre and how he has created such distinct personalities across one series should be celebrated, as too should the illustriousness of Goth, who, once again, commits wholeheartedly to the bloody cause around her.


MaXXXine is screening in Australian theatres from July 11th, 2024.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.