The release of MaXXXine fully reveals the brilliance of writer/director Ti West’s horror trilogy that began with X and continued with Pearl. This third and final chapter ties everything together meaningfully, solidifying the themes that have run throughout while simultaneously introducing a couple new ones. In making this series, West speaks to our society’s long-standing fascination with sex, violence, and show business. It succeeds as a genre picture, yet there’s a lot of substance running underneath.

Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) has escaped the bloody events of X to establish herself as one of the top porn stars of the 1980s. Now she wants to break into mainstream entertainment. A chance arrives when she lands the lead role in a horror sequel, directed by the ambitious, demanding Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki). Her big break is potentially foiled by the arrival of John Labat (Kevin Bacon), a New Orleans private detective who represents a mysterious figure that’s looking for Maxine and is seemingly intent on killing anyone she’s close to.

On the top level, MaXXXine is about the single-minded focus one needs to have if they want to achieve stardom, which our heroine absolutely does. To be able to concentrate on her acting, she must weed out whoever it is that Labat is working for. We already know what she’s capable of, so there’s suspense in watching how she reacts to people around her getting murdered and having two cops (Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale) perpetually lurking nearby. The movie is an enticingly dark look at where Maxine’s drive to become famous takes her.

In that regard, the film is a good conclusion to the trilogy. On a deeper level, West is continuing his exploration of the intersection between horror and pornography. MaXXXine is also about how home video changed the nature of entertainment. Horror and porn both exploded thanks to that revolution, leading to reactions like the Satanic panic of the ‘80s, the banning of “video nasties,” and the efforts of adult film stars like Traci Lords to go mainstream. Whereas X suggested the two genres afforded aspiring entertainers a cheap, effective way to get a foot in the door, this sequel deals with how the video boom created a generation of stars who would have struggled to gain notoriety before because of the content of their work. Horror, in particular, cranked out actors who are now considered legends, from Robert Englund to Jamie Lee Curtis.

West brings true artistry to his tale. He’s not just recreating the look of the mid-‘80s, he’s capturing its cinematic vibe. The opening credits sequence is like something right out of that period. His needle drops on the soundtrack are perfect, especially when a certain Frankie Goes to Hollywood song starts booming from the speakers. The use of split screen in a couple sequences is reminiscent of Brian DePalma’s Dressed to Kill and Blow Out. In doing all this, the director reminds viewers of what was distinct about motion pictures during that decade. They had their own unique energy.

Mia Goth once again nails it as Maxine. Her performance is simultaneously fearsome and sympathetic. The actress is front and center for the scariest scene, which finds her character freaking out while having a plaster cast made of her head. Together with a stellar supporting cast, Goth satisfyingly brings Maxine’s arc full circle. She’s fantastic in a movie that’s about a particular woman, yet also about the perpetually evolving entertainment industry.

MaXXXine proves to be a fine finale to a series that has consistently delivered intelligent frights.

out of four

MaXXXine is rated R for strong violence, gore, sexual content, graphic nudity, language, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan