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MaXXXine (A24) [Film Review]

Despite much anticipation for the finale of Ti West’s X Trilogy, ‘MaXXXine’ (A24) falls flat and acts as a disappointing conclusion.

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MaXXXine movie
MaXXXine movie

MaXXXine (A24 Films) could possibly be the most hotly anticipated horror sequel of our times, and the short wait has felt like a lifetime. Sadly, this final chapter in Ti West’s X Trilogy falls painfully flat and is, in a nutshell… disappointing.

X (2022) introduced us to Maxine Minx, the wickedly playful 1970s porn actress played with never-ending energy by the excellent Mia Goth. Along with the rest of the crew, Maxine falls victim to a pair of elderly ghouls who live in the cabin next door to the porn shoot. Presented as a homage to Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film was note-perfect, and the battle between Final Girl – Maxine and the ancient neighbour Pearl (also played by a heavily made-up Goth) was up there with the original Michael Myers and Laurie Strode Halloween showdown.

MaXXXine movie still

MaXXXine movie still

Pearl, also 2022, shot back-to-back with X, throws us back to 1918. It finds Pearl as a young woman yearning for stardom and never quite making it. Living on a farmstead with her “unconventional” parents, Pearl takes out her anguish on anyone who stands in her way, including numerous farm animals. Shot as a homage to The Wizard of Oz this time round, Pearl allows Goth to exhibit all of her trademark manic tropes (sex with a scarecrow!). It concludes with a lengthy, mesmeric monologue that should have bagged her a glut of awards but was criminally overlooked.

Many left cinemas speechless, believing that West had torn up the horror handbook and re-invented it right there. MaxXXXine, however, does not deliver.

After what feels like a very long two years, we find our heroine as a 30-something porn actress in 1985-VHS-era Hollywood, desperately seeking a real movie role and finding it in a mid-budget horror sequel. Where X fetishized porn stars, MaXXXine fetishizes VHS tapes and analogue hardware, with her best buddy Leon (Moses Sumney) working (a la Tarantino) in a seedy rental store surrounded by big box videos.

There’s a killer on the loose in Tinseltown, and somehow, Maxine’s past has a connection to this spate of satanic killings. Ambitious cops, Detectives Williams and Torres (Michelle Monaghan, Bobby Cannavale) are so prominent in guiding the narrative along that Maxine becomes more of a pawn in their game than the protagonist. In the meantime, she is being upstaged further by Kevin Bacon as a bumbling private eye, John Labat. Bacon may be the best thing about the movie.

MaXXXine movie still

MaXXXine movie still

The gore is still there, and the murders are creative. But this veers far more towards a gruesome crime thriller than a horror. It feels more like Michael Mann than John Carpenter. Even when Maxine goes into sleepy killer mode, she is enabled by the run-of-the-mill ensemble cast.

In an earnest tribute to Psycho, parallels can be drawn with that Mutha of slasher movies, and while this gives Hitchcock fans much to enjoy, it does feel clumsily forced. The inclusion of a satanic killer in this most famous of neighbourhoods is a clear nod to the Manson murders. The film sometimes feels more akin to Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood than to X and Pearl.

Anyone expecting a surprise ending as served up in the previous chapters will be sorely disappointed as MaXXXine descends into standard mainstream crime fodder in the final third, a fizz and not a bang.

That said, by regular thriller standards, there is still much to enjoy. The ’80s setting is perfectly executed and any film that can drop New Order’s “Shellshock” and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” so effortlessly into key scenes must be applauded. But as the closing tale in what has been the most exciting horror franchise in years, it misses the mark majorly.

What comes as the biggest shock is that this is by far Mia Goth’s most restrained role. As an actress who has made her name by cranking up the crazy in the previous X movies (see also Nymphomaniac Vol. II, A Cure for Wellness, Infinity Pool, and Suspiria), there is hardly a glimmer of strangeness here. Goth almost sleepwalks through the role, allowing her endless co-stars to drive the movie to its damp conclusion. This is when we needed Mad Mia the most.

MaXXXine is a film for completists who have waited to see how her story ends. But it will take the most forgiving of fans to find satisfaction here.

MaXXXine movie poster

MaXXXine movie poster

Director / Writer: Ti West
Starring: Mia Goth, Kevin Bacon, Bobby Cannavale, Lily Collins
Production Company: A24
Distributed by: A24
Release Date: July 5th, 2024
Run Time: 104 Mins

Del Pike is a University lecturer in Film and Media in Liverpool (UK). He writes film, music, art, literature and culture articles and reviews for a number of websites. Del loves nothing more than snuggling down in a dark cinema, getting sweaty at  a live gig or drifting off late at night to a good book. He loves cats. He enjoys promoting new talent online so please say hi if you have something to show.

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