‘MaXXXine’ gives you the perfect opportunity to admire and fear the great Mia Goth

‘MaXXXine’ gives you the perfect opportunity to admire and fear the great Mia Goth
‘MaXXXine’ gives you the perfect opportunity to admire and fear the great Mia Goth

Without having achieved the level of popularity of horror films that stick generously to the ‘mainstream’, the last two films already released by Ti West became, shortly after their respective releases, essential works for fans of the genre in its most independent, toughest and, without a doubt, most purposeful aspect.

We are referring to “X” and “Pearl” (both from 2022), works connected by belonging to a specific thematic universe: that of two apparently irreconcilable characters – the porn actress Maxine and the serial killer Pearl – but played by the same actress, Mia Goth, previously known for her roles in “Nymphomaniac” (2013), “A Cure for Wellness” (2016) and “Emma” (2020).

After the unexpected success of “X” and “Pearl” with audiences and critics, “MaXXXine,” the film that opens officially this Friday and serves as a direct sequel to “X,” could not have generated more expectations. Given the great work done by West on the aforementioned titles, almost no one seemed to doubt that he himself – placed once again in the position of director, producer and editor – would be capable of offering something outstanding in the new episode. But the correct answer is now engraved in our eyes after having attended an advance screening.

In our neighborhoods

At the end of “X” – no spoiler, because you’ve seen it, right? – Maxine, originally from Houston, Texas, had managed to escape from the farm in the middle of nowhere that her “producer” had chosen to film an erotic movie and where she had successfully confronted Pearl, the malevolent old woman who previously eliminated the entire film crew with the free application of the most brutal methods at hand. This sequel finds the survivor years later (1985) in Los Angeles, determined to achieve her most cherished dream at all costs: becoming famous.

The character, who was not exactly fully developed in the first film (where Goth took the trouble to play two characters, as we have already pointed out), here achieves much greater notoriety, as was the case with Pearl in -well- “Pearl”. This means that, beyond being an ambitious, cocaine-addicted girl with a great survival instinct and the potential to act in a really aggressive way when the situation warrants it, Maxine shows facets of her personality that were not so clear.

But this is supposedly a horror film, of course; and although Pearl is no longer present to torment her, the girl has to deal with a new threat, represented by a serial killer who walks loose on the streets and who immediately gives the story a tone of mystery that is constantly nuanced with touches of crazy comedy, because, in effect, “MaXXXine” frequently varies genre throughout its 104 minutes, which can be its greatest success or its worst mistake depending on the viewer’s position.

Less skin, more evil

What it is definitely is a tremendously entertaining work (it even has references to action films) that puts Goth back in the foreground it deserves, despite the fact that, for the first time, West works with world-famous Hollywood actors, as he has Kevin Bacon and Giancarlo Esposito on board in extensive, very well-developed and, of course, memorable roles.

For the sake of versatility, the protagonist appears curiously distanced from the more carnal side of the previous installment (which makes sense given that her character is getting involved with commercial cinema) and becomes directly responsible for making the lines of a horror production in which she is going to participate, and which she must pronounce during the corresponding audition, sound as powerful and intimidating as they do.

Because make no mistake: Goth is good with characters who are both sensual and deranged, but his ability to embody entities given over to evil should never be underestimated, even when, in the case of “MaXXXine,” that means the story once again shifts gears to sniff out the scents of gangster cinema. Or has it always had them?

Behind the camera

Let’s not give all the credit to the charming London actress of Brazilian descent. True horror fans know well that West had shown undeniable talent in the genre by directing such acclaimed titles as “The House of the Devil” (2009), “The Innkeepers” (2011) and “The Sacrament” (2013).

As artistic as it was, the general approach in these efforts was still accessible – apart from its occasional downtimes – and was also marked by impeccable staging with a clear seventies influence (with the exception of “The Sacrament”, which was made under the chaotic parameters of ‘found footage’).

In this case, the native of Wilmington, Delaware, literally extends his horizons by leaving the usual confinement of almost all of his previous works, which took place in delimited spaces, to take us to a city of Los Angeles that is portrayed in a striking way both in its supposed splendor and in its most evident decadence (although we are convinced that things are much worse now), even when those of us who know it feel that everything was done in three or four locations.

On several occasions, “MaXXXine” seems to give in to a sensationalist tendency that connects perfectly with the spirit of genre cinema of the time, but which perhaps takes away the forcefulness of a film that flirts with genius and then boycotts the possibility of becoming a masterpiece, probably intentionally and with the immediate consequence of pleasing fans of ‘gore’.

The curious thing is that, in the midst of its apparent narrative superficiality and constant approach to ‘exploitation’, the film frequently addresses complex themes and paints a particularly devastating portrait of the society in which we live, making use of dialogues from characters who express themselves in a racist, homophobic and sexist manner without necessarily being the ‘bad guys’.

The music is also worth listening to, because in addition to the wonderful incidental sounds composed by Tyler Bates – former guitarist of Marilyn Manson – the soundtrack is full of remembered rock and pop songs from the era, from the likes of ZZ Top, Judas Priest, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and New Order, among others. All in all, “MaXXXine” can be a party, but that depends on who goes to see it.

 
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