July 5, 2024

charley rowan mccain, maxxxine, mia goth, simon prast, ti west


‘In this business,’ reads the opening quote by Bette Davis, ‘until you’re known as a monster, you’re not a star.’ In Ti West’s slasher trilogy closer (which began with X and continued with Pearl), that correlation between audience appetite for depravity and the ruthless ambition required for climbing the Hollywood ladder is explored via eighties video nasties and lurid headlines. Seeing the two previous films West has made with his star, Mia Goth, isn’t a requirement to get into the scuzzy, febrile vibe of this installment but there are delicious easter eggs and call backs for those who’ve made the multi-era journey. 

charley rowan mccain, maxxxine, mia goth, simon prast, ti west

For the uninitiated, X followed a 1979 porn shoot gone bloodily wrong when Pearl, the elderly owner of a Texas farm preys on the cast and crew including Maxine Minx (Goth). Pearl tracks the titular character in her youth (Goth), transmuting from WW1-era farm girl to killer. Now, we reunite with Maxine (Goth) trying to outrun her past in 1985 Hollywood where moral panic about movies and music is at a hysterical high, and serial killer the Night Stalker casts a violent pall over the city. Hoping to transition from adult to mainstream movies, Maxine auditions for a horror sequel directed by Elizabeth Debicki’s helmer just as a venal PI (Kevin Bacon) starts tailing her and her friends begin to be butchered…

charley rowan mccain, maxxxine, mia goth, simon prast, ti west

The most gleeful and self-reflexive of the trilogy, Maxxxine is filthy-gorgeous and neon-drenched, loaded with Hollywood hat-tips to movie lore and iconic flicks. Theda Bara, the Hollywood sign, Chinatown, Psycho, Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Universal’s backlot, the good cop/bad cop, psycho-biddy and the last girl tropes… all are woven into a winky, trashy celebration of the dream factory and the VHS era. The horror is squelchy, lurid, daft (balls are skewered, heads popped), the performances equally ripe.

charley rowan mccain, maxxxine, mia goth, simon prast, ti west

Bacon is a hoot as a Jake Gittes-lite gumshoe with a Southern accent oozing molasses (who later oozes in a mischievously horrible way) while Debicki and Lily Collins lean into cliches of ballbusters and starlets. But the film belongs to Goth, strutting through every scene with a killer wardrobe and attitude for days. A woman with ‘monstrous’ ambition who talks about fame in terms of simply working hard, Maxine is a trope and a timeless truism. Those background billboards asking for the ‘X Factor’ and the nods to tinseltown cults, audience prurience and the career-making power of scandal are as relevant today as they were in ‘85. It’s a film like the one Dibicki’s director is making: A B-movie with A ideas.

Maxxxine is in cinemas from 5 July

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