'MaXXXine' Is a Fun '80s Horror Pastiche

Director Ti West’s MaXXXine has something for every kind of horror fan: for the film snob who can dissect homages down to a camera angle, the horror classicist missing ‘80s gore, the casual who likes their scares moderate and the fun in full supply. It’

s the July Fourth weekend AC escape you’re looking for.

That West’s X trilogy even exists is a feat worth celebrating. MaXXXine is the third film in a series that the beloved indie horror filmmaker more or less inadvertently backed into. It started with X, his 2022 70s-slasher homage, featuring not one but two dynamic performances from Mia Goth as both Maxine, a headstrong Final Girl (and aspiring porn star), and Pearl, the murderous octogenarian who torments and kills her erotic movie film crew when they make the fatal mistake of filming on her farm. The reception was rapturous enough to inspire West to go full ‘98 DMX and deliver Pearl—a Technicolor-tinged prequel flashing back to Pearl’s homicidal origins on that same farm in WW1-era Texas—that same year.

Now he’s closing out the saga with MaXXXine, which picks back up with our titular heroine in the ‘80s, amid the hysteria of Los Angeles’ Night Stalker murders. Right as Maxine finds herself on the cusp of converting porn stardom to a genuine, legitimate Hollywood career, a copycat killer starts offing her friends and threatening to ruin everything she’s achieved.

In a trilogy that wears its homages on its sleeve, MaXXXine is the most fun of the bunch, fully revelling in 80s sleaze and seediness. Come for the A24 horror prestige of it all, stay for West stretching that reputation to the silliest limits the studio will allow. Kevin Bacon co-stars as a cliché lecherous P.I., Bobby Cannavale as a cop who says one-liners like he’s auditioning for Miami Vice, Giancarlo Esposito as a Hollywood agent who literally says he’s buried a few bodies, Elizabeth Debicki as an asshole director passing off horror shlock as high art. Everyone is giving West their best wink, supplemented by stylistic nods to auteurs like Hitchcock and De Palma.

This series would be nothing without Goth, and this is her most alluring and unsettling performance yet. West films Los Angeles like a petri dish of vice and grime and Maxine is the antibody bending the system to her will. She’s a force of nature, a wrecking ball of manifest destiny. Emboldened by surviving the events of X, she arrives in this film as nobody’s damsel or victim—and even overcomes West’s own themes. Together, all three films dissect the corrosive elements that an obsession with stardom can breed; Maxine knows she’s being sold a dream and counters with, “so what?”

MaXXXine doesn’t reinvent the wheel so much as upgrade the tires, but I could’ve watched another 30 minutes of Goth turning the tables on sex pests, pummeling stalkers, and striding down both the scummy streets of Hollywood and the sunshine-soaked soundstages of Burbank as the master of all she surveys. Give Mia a Wes Craven-inspired fourquel set in the 90s, give her a Maxine miniseries…give her anything she wants!

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