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‘Maxxxine’: Mia Goth & VHS Scuzz Mark a Gloriously Salacious Final Chapter

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In March 2022, director Ti West and star Mia Goth unveiled their new slasher film, X, with a little twist after the credits: they had already filmed a prequel entitled Pearl. Releasing in September of the same year, Pearl arguably was even more of a cultural success than the first film. The memes of Goth screaming “I’m a starrrr!” speak for the impact in the horror community. After the credits of Pearl, however, lay another surprise: West and Goth were in production of a sequel to entitled Maxxxine.

It’s now July, and Maxxxine is here. Set in 1985, inspired by “video nasties” and 1980 films of the era, Maxxxine arrives with considerable expectations. Mia Goth‘s star has risen towards full-blown icon status. and Pearl have been folded into the canon of great modern horror. Not to mention, Maxxxine has the added pressure of being the big closer to Ti West‘s trilogy in a satisfying fashion. While it does that well, this film is a great time on its own terms. Bathed in VHS scuzz, led by Goth in full badass mode, and taking a turn into whodunnit territory, Maxxxine is another excellent achievement to help bolster A24’s reputation as a home for high-quality horror.

Maxxxine takes Hollywood with a stellar cast

After the “Texas Porn Star Massacre” perpetrated by the demented Howard and Pearl in X, sole survivor Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) lives in Los Angeles. Thanks to her agent (Giancarlo Esposito), she carves out a successful niche in adult films, moonlighting as a stripper. She gets ready to make the jump to mainstream motion pictures when she lands the coveted role in the horror film The Puritan II. Her luck runs out quickly when a shadowy figure from her past, fed information by shady private eye John Labat (Kevin Bacon), uses the ongoing real-life murders perpetrated by the “Night Stalker” as a cover to kill people close to Maxine.

In contrast to and Pearl‘s sparse locations reused between films, Ti West has a bigger canvas than ever to play with in Maxxxine. His vision of Hollywood is one populated by seedy, downtrodden figures, all trying to achieve a glint of stardom. Like those previous films, Maxxxine has a lot of fun with its campy, archetypical figures. Kevin Bacon steals the show as a private investigator who radiates sleaze. His ridiculous Louisiana accent will be a source of impression for horror fans to come. Giancarlo Esposito shows the hell up as a smut-pedddler with a heart of gold, Halsey makes a case for herself in her brief part as a sex worker, and Elizabeth Debicki (literally and figuratively) towers over the film as a B movie director with A movie aspirations.

Moses Sumney as Maxine’s best friend/video store proprietor is a welcome ray of light in a salacious picture, while Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale add a procedural element in their roles as two LAPD officers investigating the murders. It’s a cast so packed that notable performers like Lily Collins and Sophie Thatcher come off like footnotes.

This is Mia Goth‘s show, and as Maxine she’s achieved her most ferocious mode. As someone who’s gone through the depths of hell and back, Maxine is not about to take any more crap in her quest for stardom. She’s a compulsively likable heroine, different enough from Goth‘s performances as old Pearl, young Pearl, and Maxine in the trilogy’s opener that it adds a whole new energy. 

Mia Goth in Maxxxine (A24)

Evolution of A24’s X trilogy

The hillbilly horror of was not much at all like the technicolor descent into madness of Pearl. Fittingly, Maxxxine provides an entirely different flavor from those past two films. The larger scale has its pros and its cons. Ti West still has issues with pacing, compounded by a mystery that moves far too lazily for something that’s historically acted as a propulsive kind of storyline. The positive of this approach is a willingness to let you sit with the characters. Maxxxine wants you to soak up the vibe, so to speak. While the aesthetics are to be discussed in a bit, Ti West‘s screenplay weaves the whole trilogy together commendably.

The meta-textual, reverential nature of West‘s trilogy has certainly won as many detractors as it has diehards. The former will definitely balk at the inclusion of the Universal backlot’s Bates Motel, punctuated in a quite on-the-nose line clarifying that this is, indeed, the house from Psycho. Inversely, West purposefully continues to explore the dichotomy between pornography and horror films, Maxine’s journey from the former to the latter a striking capstone plot-line bringing the trilogy’s marriage of sex and violence to the forefront. Maxxxine doesn’t have as much to say about sex work as X, but that could be that its head is elsewhere.

Maxxxine‘s third act marks a convergence for all three films. Although it doesn’t have the kind of mind-blowing reveal to end the whodunnit plot as has been advertised, the ultimate answer to who has targeted Maxine is really the only way it could’ve gone without sacrificing the foundation laid by the prior two films.

Let me tell you, the third act goes to some very silly places. It’s almost certain that the climax of Maxxxine will cause a good swath of the audience to bow out. Yet, it’s a fitting confrontation that concludes the story in a hail of camp-infused gore, even if the denouement goes on a little too far past the film’s natural ending point.

Maxxxine embraces the ’80s era

One thing about the trilogy that is vital to getting on its wavelength is that, at their core, these films are pure pastiche. They’re loving odes to different versions of the slasher that put rekindling a specific style over the substance of the storyline. Adapt one of the most stylish eras of horror, the “video nasty”, hyper-gory sleaze- and tie it together with salacious giallos that marry eroticism, thriller, slasher, and many other disparate elements, and Maxxxine is bound to get that criticism tenfold. But the style is simply too good to resist.

Ti West and cinematographer Eliot Rockett deliver imagery primed to be re-shared by “iconic horror moment” social media accounts all across social media. The scene of our killer tightening his black gloves as Maxine does a strip tease in a room overcome by red lighting in front of a one-way mirror feels sexy and terrifying at the same time. Maxine’s crushing of a mugger’s testicles is as hilariously gratuitous as you can get. And a found videotape showing the murders of two of Maxine’s friends by the unknown killer made me feel like I was seeing something I wasn’t supposed to be seeing. The ’80s snuff film vibe of that particular sequence, and later sequences, is hands down the most effective the scares get.

Nightclubs. Dark alleys. Needle drops ranging from Frankie Goes to Hollywood to Kim Carnes are as devilish as a score by Tyler Bates that feels like it came right out of a Dario Argento film. Ti West creates a nightmare vision of Los Angeles that might’ve played even better if it weren’t for the vast influx of 1980s-themed film and television in the past decade or so. Still, it’s such a loving tribute to horror of the era that it almost feels new.

That’s the whole mission of the trilogy, right? To recreate and elevate different eras of horror while telling an ambitious narrative across three films. The promise is now complete. XPearl, and Maxxxine are all films that succeed and fail in different places. Well, maybe not X, which I consider to be a modern-day horror classic. All the same, Maxxxine is a salacious, thrilling trilogy closer that sends out one of A24’s most ambitious projects out on the high notes of ’80s sleaze. Like the title character, Ti West and Mia Goth are stars.

Maxxxine releases on July 5, 2024. Are you going to see it on opening weekend? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus if you have seen or plan to see this film in theaters!

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James Preston Poole

James Preston Poole is a Houston-based writer who specializes in genre film, while also screenwriting and working on film sets whenever he can. He believes that as long as there’s someone out there to champion a movie, then there’s no such thing as “objectively bad.” James holds a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas and owes everything to his friends, family, significant other Catherine, and their three-legged cat Trinity.

James Preston Poole has 24 posts and counting. See all posts by James Preston Poole