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Pearl ★★★★★



Director: Ti West

Cast: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro

Release: September 16th, 2022 (USA & Canada)

It truly is a good time to be a horror fan. A24 continues to shine as one of the best independent movie companies, and its 2022 lineup of genre features has been very impressive so far. When director Ti West announced his outstanding slasher flick X is getting a prequel, cinephiles were really excited about it, and now we finally have the highly anticipated Pearl. It’s fantastic that A24 has released two instalments from the same franchise in the same year, which has never been done before. Mia Goth returns once again as the main antagonist from X, but this time as the younger version of the titular character in Pearl. She’s also the co-writer alongside West, so you can tell it’s both a passion project and a collaborative effort among these insanely talented people. We get to see what made Pearl snap and turn into a menacing serial killer.

Taking place in the 1900s during the Spanish Flu pandemic and World War I, our lead character Pearl (Goth) has been trapped living on a farm with her domineering mother (Tandi Wright) and sick father (Matthew Sunderland). She has been unhappy her whole life while wanting a more glamorous future as a chorus girl. As the movie continues, we see her transform into the villain that we know from X. You will be completely satisfied even if you haven’t seen the previous instalment.  

Pearl does everything right, but let’s start by discussing the acting and the screenplay. Goth is phenomenal in the lead role, and her performance will be discussed for many years within the genre community. It is a showcase of her tremendous acting abilities. The rest of the cast is excellent, but it’s Goth you’ll be thinking about for a long time. She most certainly carries the film throughout. She is mesmerizing because she understands her character deeply and emotionally. She also has a standout monologue, which reminds you of the iconic monologue from Toni Collette in Hereditary. Character development is one of the highlights of the brilliant script written by West and Goth. Every scene serves the purpose of fleshing out Pearl as a character while adding a ton of tension to the overall narrative. It is guaranteed that some scenes will make you super uncomfortable. It’s well-paced from start to finish because it’s a profoundly investing premise that immediately grabs your attention from the get-go. As a character-driven story, it does its job magnificently.

As mentioned, the movie wonderfully showcases the Technicolor style with its vibrant and colourful cinematography. It’s a beautifully shot film that also takes you back to classic Hollywood cinema, known to be heavily influential in the American movie industry decades ago. It’s great that X and Pearl are very distinct in styles and sub-genres, which makes you want to praise West for bringing a sense of uniqueness to each instalment. Incredibly, he’s able to bring classic filmmaking elements from the past and implement them in the current generation of cinema. Even the musical score, composed by Tyler Bates and Tim Williams, deserves a lot of attention for setting up the tone and atmosphere magnificently.

Simply put, Pearl is one of the best movies of 2022. If the upcoming sequel MaXXXine is as good as Pearl and X, then we might have a cool horror trilogy. It’s everything you want for a film like this, especially since it dramatically succeeds as a profound character piece, unique period piece and unsettling horror flick. It’s not only a brilliant standalone origin story, but it also makes X 10 times better! It’s a fantastic piece of genre filmmaking and storytelling.

Steven Lee has always been passionate about movies. He also writes for Short Ends, Montreal Rampage, That Moment In and Borrowing Tape.

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