Director: Ti West
Writers: Ti West and Mia Goth
Starring: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunerland, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Alistair Sewell.
Pearl, the prequel to X, is finally getting released in the UK on Friday, only six months after its release in America. Set in 1918 against the backdrop of the influenza pandemic and the last days of the First World War, Mia Goth (who also co-wrote the script with director Ti West) reprises her role as Pearl, who wants to leave her farm life to become a star and dance around the world. It’s a film that pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, similar to a lot of films released recently, while also being a twisted horror film.
The film opens with Pearl dancing around her bedroom, imagining that she’s a star, before her mother comes into the room and ruins her daydreams. She then carries out her daily chores around the farm, whistling yearning for something more in life. Dancing in the barn, as the animals are her greatest audience. Then, just in case you were worried that this was turning into a period drama, a goose wanders in and Pearl kills it with a pitchfork and feeds it to an alligator. From that point onwards you’re waiting for Pearl to snap again.
There is an overwhelming sense of dread that builds throughout the first half of the film and once it reaches its peak then it doesn’t let up for the remainder of the runtime. It’s not an all-out gorefest, although there are some very bloody and gory moments, but it has an incredibly chilling atmosphere that had my heart racing for so much of the runtime. It doesn’t rely on jump-scares or cheap thrills, instead it’s all about building terror and once it has you, then it never lets up.
Mia Goth is beyond phenomenal in the title role. She gives a breathtakingly intense performance that’s absolutely spellbinding. Pearl is a very messed up and twisted character, and Goth not only makes her believable, but also makes her sympathetic. She’s childlike at points and quickly turns into someone incredibly sinister. Her performance is definitely going to go down as one of the most iconic performances in horror. There’s a long monologue towards the end of the film that’s just incredible.
The relationship between Pearl and her mother, Ruth (Tandi Wright), is one of the best bits of the film. It comes across like Ruth genuinely hates her daughter and wants to stop her from achieving anything. Their dynamic is really interesting, and there’s a big-blowout argument where everything comes out and it’s an absolute highlight of the film. Wright is brilliant, with that scene being one of the best parts of the film.
Pearl is the dark version of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, except that she never wants to go back home. It’s all incredibly stylised, that matches the time the film is set in. The opening credits, and closing credits, mimic films from the golden age of Hollywood. It’s beautiful to look at. On top of that it has a brilliant score, from Tyler Baters and Tim Williams, that feels reminiscent of the era and punctuates every scene.
X was fantastic and somehow Pearl is even better. Hopefully the upcoming Maxxxine will be make this the perfect horror trilogy.
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Thanks for the review on this. I’ve read good things about it and added it to my watchlist but then take it out, then add it back in. Going to leave it in now!
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Thanks for reading! I really loved it and would recommend it
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