In early 2022 Director Ti West and his team released a love letter to 70’s horror with X (2022). Lead actress Mia Goth brilliantly portrays two fantastic characters: an old and the grizzled murderess named Pearl, and the young vibrant porn-star, Maxine. Knowing the radical success of both of these characters, Ti West immediately launched into producing a prequel with the intent on finishing a trilogy. It’s truly a wonder of the modern world that such an aggressive move for a sequel could happen.
In this article, Malevolent Dark will take a look at the recently released Pearl (2022), offer a brief review, and highlight 5 things killer things really stand out about this movie.
The origin story
The film takes place in Texas at the very same home where the slaughter of an adult film crew would occur decades later. The paint is fresh, the roof is new and the fields are lush. Pearl (Mia Goth), works on the farm to assist her mother Ruth (Tandi Wright) in taking care of both the farm and her invalid father. She dreams of making it big in theater, but her mother consistently crushes her dreams. One day, she gets an opportunity to try out for a traveling dance troupe, but her Mother thinks otherwise.
Given the advice to, “Not to let anything ever get in her way”, this wide eyed young woman snaps with disastrous consequences for anyone standing in her way.
1) Mia Goth is no accident
Truly, X provided a showcase for Goth’s acting ability. Mia proved that she could triumphantly navigate two radically different characters that underneath share eerily similar motivations. Needless to say, Goth dazzled horror audiences. In Pearl, the director sets a distinctively different landscape for Goth. Instead of the gritty Texas dust bowl of the original, he juxtaposes with vibrant colors and lush landscapes. This places Mia in a setting that feels somewhat like Dorothy’s farm in the Wizard of Oz. This gives the vibe of the carefree days roaring twenties (If a flu pandemic and world at war can ever be considered care free).
With this backdrop, Goth digs into to her charming southern belle accent and literally exudes a sweetness that makes the ultimate destination of her character arc so jarring when fully realized. Undoubtedly, Pearl was made explicitly for Mia Goth and it showcases her range as an actress. At one point, Goth delivers a transcendental monolog for the ages. She then displays one of the most impressive transitions through the seasons of emotion in a single uncomfortable camera shot. Goth is a monster of an actress. At this point there’s no denying it.
2) Pearl doesn’t deserve your sympathy
Ti West didn’t really constrain himself with any big character reveals in X. He could has taken the character literally anywhere. West showed a lot of intellectual honesty by not making Pearl a victim of her circumstances. Certainly, Pearl lives a hard life and the demands of her immigrant mother and disabled father weigh heavily on her. At no intersection of events does any of this rationalize the actions that she takes. The people that she hurts do not deserve it and Pearl demonstrates a psychopathic inability to empathize with those around her.
3) A bad seed
Pearl’s evil was born, not made. West doesn’t obfuscate this fact. She clearly lacks of real resolve or remorse for her violence. As the film progresses, Pearl’s psychopathy slowly claws through her bright smile and golly gee presentation. She goes as far as telling anyone still willing to hear her that she has something ‘missing’ inside. Jeffery Dahmer used similar language to describe himself. Pearl lacks any ability for empathy. As her own desires erupt from her, nothing in her moral fiber can hold it back. She’s bad to to bone and there’s no turning back.
As soon as she realizes who she really is, the words of her mother reverberate through her head, “Make the most of what you have.” What Pearl has is terrifing.
4) Howard was not an early accomplice
Her husband Howard is conspicuously out of the picture as he fights for his life in World War I. Those that saw X might have left the theater believing that these two were like a backwoods Bonnie and Clyde conspiring for murder since puberty. Instead, Pearl is clearly the corrupter as Howard simply walks into the destruction that she wrought while he was away. We kind of like the fact that Howard’s descent into evil remains a mystery. We can only assume that his undying love for her made him tolerate all of her horrible flaws.
5) Pandemics are pandemics, regardless of century
West deftly adds a bit of social commentary that interestingly hits close to home considering the proximity of his series to a real pandemic. This film takes place in the heart of Texas during the early 1900’s influenza pandemic. In similar fashion, the film covers the burden of wearing masks, avoiding crowds and self-imposed quarantine to avoid infecting family members. It’s not entirely clear that West intended to make a real point of it, or if he simply wanted to be authentic to the timeline of his story. West’s reminder of recent history seemed relevant while not feeling cheap or contrived.
We at Malevolent Dark really enjoyed this film. In fact, it may be the superior film to X in pure cinematic terms. Although interesting movie in its own right, Pearl did pale in comparison in overall horror entertainment value than its predecessor.
Overall we preferred X’s Easy Rider-esq camera techniques and psychedelic special effects to the Wandavision approach to conflating turn-of-the-century styling with modern horror ideas. We also missed some of the overt refer references to horror history that were rather profound in X. As well as Goth rocked it, the film would have improved with a more interesting supporting cast.
Regardless, the director puts a nice enough bow on his film to make it well worth watching. Mia Goth simply stuns in a movie that was explicitly designed to provide her a stage to grandstand on. She doesn’t miss a single opportunity to blow us away. More than that, we are all in on the coming sequel, MaXXXine. Goth’s characterization of Maxine has plenty of legs left to stand on. We are looking forward to see where this thing goes. Big hair, cocaine and Miami Vice here we come… W00t!
Pearl (2022) - 5 things kickass things about Ti West's prequel - Malevolent Dark
Director: Ti West
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33
- Fantastic performance by Mia Goth
- Suitable prequel
- Great balance of story and gore
- Less entertaining than its predecessor, X
- Less sexy than X