Directed by: Ti West
Written by: Ti West, Mia Goth
Starring: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro
Released: March 16, 2023
Grade: B


In case you missed it, X was an above-average horror-thriller set the 1970s and about a group of young adults who had rented a guest house on a Texas farm to shoot a pornographic movie.  It was made in New Zealand on a low budget and performed admirably at the box-office with over $500,000 here in Australia and over $11 million USD in the horror-loving United States.  If you stayed until the very end of the closing credits, you’d have seen the trailer for Pearl, a prequel which was shot at the same time (a great way to save money).

It’s been a peculiarly long wait for our audiences to see this prequel.  While X was released in the United States and Australia at the same time (the second half of March 2022), Pearl opened in the States back in September 2022, fresh off its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.  It’s taken six months to find a slot here with the film now receiving a limited release in the quieter aftermath of awards season.

It’s a tricky film to describe succinctly.  In the original movie, star Mia Goth played two different characters – a young woman trying to get rich in the porn industry and, thanks to the benefit of make-up, a super creepy octogenarian who wasn’t afraid to murder a person or two.  Pearl is set six decades prior to X with Goth now playing the 20-something-year-old version of the old woman.  Have I lost you yet?  Don’t sweat it.  This background material is interesting but it’s not essential knowledge.  With minimal overlap in terms of narrative, there’s no need to have seen one before the other.

X won me over with its blend of entertaining comedy and violent horror, but Pearl is a very different beast.  For starters, it’s centred on one person as opposed to a wider group.  This makes it more of a character study than a conversation-driven piece.  Further, it makes audiences feel uncomfortable in a dissimilar way.  There’s still splashes of bloody gore but it creates its “horror” through social awkwardness.  From her strained smile, to her unusual voice, to her lack of a “filter”, Pearl is an odd one.  It's hard to work out if you should feel sympathetic (she had a tough upbringing) or scared (she says some messed-up things).

I don’t think the script is as strong this time around.  There’s not a lot going on and the supporting players are flimsy.  Still, it’s a film to be seen because of Mia Goth’s memorable performance.  Director Ti West and cinematographer Eliot Rockett assist Goth with their use of close-ups and long takes.  There’s a particularly jarring scene late in the movie where Pearl confides in her sister-in-law while casually sitting at the kitchen table.

Love it or hate it (I can understand the divisiveness), Pearl is a film you’ll remember.