Just a few months after releasing the retro-slasher “X”, Ti West presented “Pearl”, a prequel to its predecessor, set sixty years earlier, in the accompanying program of the Venice festival. And while in “X” we followed the adventures of a young team that went to provincial Texas to film porn on a run-down farm they rented from an old couple who don’t even know what they do, in “Pearl” we follow what happened. on the same property much earlier. And how the grotesque grandmother Pearl actually became the person who, to put it this way and not spoil it for those who haven’t seen “X” yet, will suddenly stop filming porn.
The year is 1918 and Pearl (Mia Goth, who co-wrote the screenplay with her boyfriend West) is a girl who grows up on a farm in Texas with a strict mother of German descent and a father who is completely dispossessed. Her dear Howard went off to the First World War not long after they were married, and she doesn’t really feel like staying on the farm, but longs for a more interesting, exciting life. She is completely mesmerized by the movie and the lives of movie stars and dreams that one day she too will become a famous dancer and leave the farm, and the opportunity will present itself to her when her sister-in-law discovers that an audition is coming to their town. It is the time when the Spanish fever was raging, and her mother forbids her to leave the farm unnecessarily and be in contact with other people, but we also see that Pearl is not exactly a normal person because she not only kills the animals on the farm and feeds them to the famous crocodile from the swamp, he is already tormenting his sick father.
More and more, Pearl will lose touch with reality, lose herself in her fantasies, and the key moment will be when she meets a young projectionist in the city who will fill her head even more. And while “X” was a typical slasher inspired by classics such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or the films of Mario Bava, “Pearl” looks completely different stylistically and thematically. The film is visually and stylistically inspired by old Hollywood and classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” or “Mary Poppins”. Sam West described “Pearl” as a mix of Sirk’s melodrama and a perverted Disney film in which we follow the creation and emergence of a psychopathic killer.
It’s like an origin film that deepens the story we saw in “X” and after which we understand to some extent why on earth Pearl and his lover decided to darken the team that is dusting in the barn. “Pearl” is a film that is primarily a character study, a shocking psychological thriller – a horror about a girl for whom it is clear from the beginning that something is wrong with her. She understands this too, but she can’t figure out what she lacks and what is bothering her, and Goth is very good as a girl who tries to hide and control her mania and her urges, even though it is clear to us that this is not really possible.