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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

X (2022)

If there's a silly pop culture hill I'll die on, it's that 2022 was the best single year for horror films in the history of cinema. And a big part of that is because of X.

And if you would have told me that a new take on Texas Chainsaw Massacre told through the lens of a group of amateur pornographers was going to revitalize horror for me, I would have told you to get out of my kitchen. Why are you even in here? Because I don't like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's Too Much. The pain is too real and too visceral and I don't like that in my horror. I like horror that makes it clear that you should regret every death, just a little. Even when they're unlikeable, horrible people, they're human beings and it sucks that they're being snuffed out in horrible ways. And X delivers where TCM falls short. I care about each and every one of these characters, even Howard and Pearl, and it sucks when each and every one of them dies. I can't articulate how Ti West pulls it off but he manages to make each kill land while still holding back on the gore (with the exception of RJ, whose death honestly goes on a little too long). Almost none of the gore feels like too much. It never veers into torture porn like so much modern horror does. It's so artful.

I bought this out of the $5 bin at Walmart, not because I imagined myself watching it as much as I watch, say, Scream, but because I respect the hell out of this film and physical media is the guarantee I have that I'll be able to watch a given film whenever I feel like it. And I'm so glad I did. It's even better on the rewatch.

I feel like I'm chasing my tail trying to talk about this film. There's so much to talk about.

The crowning achievement of this movie, though, is the tension. Which is honestly ramped up on the rewatch, which surprised me. X opens with police arriving on the scene, surveying the carefully obscured aftermath. Weapons are deliberately included in frame. You know what's coming. This is one of the finest examples of what we call in Movie Club "meta horror." Meta horror feels like a modern (but age old) tool of storytelling that relies on the audience's knowledge and love of horror. The beats, the musical stings, the framing. You know everything that's coming. But when? Which messed with me in the rewatch because I really knew what was coming but the movie was shorter than I remembered and it felt like time was telescoping around each moment of violence. I was tensed up looooong before the movie intended me to tense up. Very impressive! The overhead shot of Maxine swimming in the pond has lived rent free in my head since Andy and I first watched this. Beautifully framed, absolutely chilling in its delivery.

I forgot about the Brian dePalma split screen scene set to Brittney Snow (once again, looking like she's having the time of her life) singing the hell out of "Landslide." Devastating.

I love this film. The deaths hurt too much for me to revisit this one on the regular but I'm so glad it exists. I need to pick up a copy of Pearl. I cannot wait for Maxxxine this summer.

"It's All Disco"

Insulation foam, paint, mirrors, glue, resin, glitter, insanity.


-I don't know how much I want to even dissect this piece. Galaxy Quest has been my favorite make for so long and X dethroned it easily. This is the hardest I've worked on a piece since The Mummy. It's the most fun I've had this whole project. I feel like this is me on a plate. It's over the top, it's weird, it's dark, it's somehow cheerful, there's glitter blood, there's disco. And as I stare down my 40th birthday, it feels damn good to be this happy with something I've made. Maybe no one else will get it, but I confidently expressed myself and I'm apologizing to no one for it.

-There were, of course, hiccups. I carved the gator from insulation foam without having any experience glueing strips of mirrors to a 3D shape and it turns out that contours are hard! I knew the resin was ambitious and I had massive woes with it (slow set time, spreading, gravity, it's too thin somehow?) but I love how it looks.

-I don't need to top this (it would be so difficult and it's so nice to not feel like I have to) but I hope I can find this feeling again.

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