“Pearl” — directed by Ti West and written by Ti West and its star Mia Goth — is a thrilling slasher that somehow manages to demand empathy for a cold-blooded killer. It premiered Sept. 16 and has since garnered an 88% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film tells the origin story of Pearl, whose husband in the previous film, “X,” lets a group of young people stay in their farmhouse in rural Texas. After catching them producing adult movies, the couple hunts them in the middle of the night. “Pearl” takes place prior to these events of “X.”
The prequel is set in 1918, during World War I. Movies are taking over popular culture and serve as Pearl’s biggest means of escape from the responsibilities of her family and farm. These are the themes that serve as the driving force of the plot of “Pearl.”
The viewer watches a young Pearl’s descent into madness. By showcasing her vivid dreams of becoming a star on the big screen and highlighting the tense relationship with her mother, West and Goth create believable and relatable motives for the iconic character. In doing so, they have created what is sure to be a long-lasting legacy for the film and the character herself within today’s popular culture and movie industry.
The most impressive feat of both “Pearl” and “X” is their ability to completely disrupt what is considered normal or expected in storytelling. It takes creative genius to craft a plot which strategically tells the story of mortality through the murders of a band of traveling adult-film actors. And by exploring the deeper history of Pearl, an entire universe is created that really immerses the audience. Because of this, both films have earned top spots on my list of modern horror favorites.
What is especially interesting is that Goth simultaneously plays Pearl and the final girl of the previous film, Maxine. Another sequel coming this November, “MaXXXine,” will focus on her career as an adult-film star after the events of “X.” This will be in stark contrast to “Pearl,” whose themes center on the character’s dreams that are never brought to fruition, leading to killing sprees.
It looks like “X” and “Pearl” are becoming A24’s first ever franchise. And this makes sense, because Pearl is a character who just seems to captivate audiences in a unique way. I found myself feeling sorry for Pearl and rooting for her at other times. In the seamless transition of her nature from pathetic to sinister, you cannot help but underestimate her — and this always proves to be a mistake.
If you haven’t seen “X,” I recommend you watch it as soon as possible so that you can watch “Pearl” in theaters now. They are cinematic masterpieces that raise expectations for all subsequent horror and slasher films. And look out for Ti West and Mia Goth, who are really making waves in the genre. It is safe to assume any future project with their names on it will be worth watching.