X marks the spot. In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves literally fighting for their lives.
From writer-director Ti West (The House of the Devil) comes X, a new slasher film set in 1979 about a group of entrepreneurial driven young filmmakers who retreat to a rural Texas farm to make a low-budget pornographic movie called The Farmer’s Daughter, only to find themselves thrust into unimaginable horrors when their mysterious hosts disrupt the shoot.
Both an ode to independent filmmaking of all stripes—adult movies, slasher movies, auteur movies—and an evocation of an era and its changing times and mores, X takes the blueprint of traditional slashers by flipping it on it head to create a refreshingly clever slasher that discusses topics from aging, youth, beauty and the power/freedom of sexual exploration. From the laughs to its glorious horrific deaths, X features standout performance that showcases their characters vulnerabilities and curiosities.
X is further elevated by West’s talent to skillfully craft and visually low-budget horror that feels like a hidden indie gem hardcore cinephiles and even the casual viewer could resonate with.
The Koalition had the opportunity to speak with actresses Jenna Ortega and Brittany Snow about bringing their characters to life, the exploration of female sexuality, the importance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and more.
In the movie, the young director RJ Nichols (Owen Campbell) has studied his Godard and wants to infuse auteurist tendencies, along with the freewheeling spirit of the era, into their homegrown romp. RJ’s not necessarily a great filmmaker yet, but he’s competent, and the movie that he’s making is not a joke. It’s shot as professionally as they can afford, the actors know how to say their lines seriously without looking at the camera, and while there may be a ceiling in terms of how good their movie can actually be, the characters are still aiming for that ceiling.
Starring in The Farmer’s Daughter is Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), a cocaine-fueled young Texan with Lynda Carter aspirations. She believes she’s destined for superstardom beyond porn, and her brash, go-getting producer boyfriend Wayne Gilroy (Martin Henderson) will stop at nothing to help her get there. Rounding out the production are RJ’s naïve girlfriend Lorraine Day (Jenna Ortega), who finds her values tested over the course of the production, and Bobby-Lynne Parker (Brittany Snow) and Jackson Hole (Mescudi), a polyamorous duo who are no strangers to the swinging ’70s and porn shoots.
Hovering on the periphery of the production are the filmmakers’ hosts: elderly, cantankerous Howard (Stephen Ure), a World War I & II veteran, and his voyeuristic wife Pearl (Mia Goth in an unexpected second role, unrecognizable in makeup and prosthetics), who becomes obsessed with Maxine after noticing a nostalgic resemblance when surreptitiously watching her mount and ride Jackson during the porn shoot.
Lorraine Day (Jenna Ortega) is considered a “good girl.” Sweet, shy, who might look down on those who uses their body for money, but she likes her boyfriend RJ and agreed to help him with the production of the upcoming Adult Entertainment film The Farmer’s Daughter. But this isn’t your average “wham bam, thank you ma’am” adult film, this is going to be a work or art, according to RJ, even if Lorraine originally declares, “it’s smut.” Through the course of filming what starts out as judgement slowly evolves into an awakening of sexual curiosity, at the protest of RJ who fears what would happen to the “good girl” he was attracted to.
“As far as my character goes; [What I appreciate about] Lorraine or at least her position in this film is because she comes from a very different background from everybody else, she’s kind of thrown in an environment that she’s not comfortable with. She’s conservative Christian girl, has no familiarity or understanding of the porn industry nor has she ever been in that environment,” said Jenna.
“What I love about this film or at least about this character and the way she’s written is early on in the script it’s very easy to see her as a judgmental self-righteous. She kind of views herself above others and doesn’t really feel like the need to socialize with people she doesn’t agree with but as the film goes on you realize it’s not judgment more so curiosity and nervousness or but also openness to explore a different side of herself. [She wants to] welcome a new side of the world she hasn’t really seen and also eagerness to participate in it. I think it’s quite delightful to see her as one way and then the more you get to know her realize how different she is,” Jenna continued.
Brittany Snow who brings confidence to Bobby Lynn as the star of The Farmer’s Daughter, sees the adult industry vastly different. “Bobby Lynn views herself and values herself as a performer and someone who is using this for means to an end. She is one of those women knows what she has and uses sexuality as something to her advantage and not necessarily demeaning it as a gratuitous sort of act. She realizes at this current time and in her sort of placement this is how she’s going to get ahead. I admire that and I think she uses it well,” said Brittany.
Ti West centers X on the growing relationship between Maxine and Pearl—two women played by one actress who both want what they don’t have and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it—a dynamic that grows closer, and tenser, which is perfectly highlighted in Brittany Snow/Kid Cudi’s rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” As Kid Cudi on acoustic guitar and Brittany delivering beautiful vocals set to a split-screen montage featuring Pearl who is in an incredibly sympathetic moment.
“It’s probably my favorite scene in the film. I think it’s kind of what happens right before everything goes wrong and things get kind of out of hand. I think it’s like the perfect little montage of all of these people that don’t really go together are finally enjoying this time. It’s the calm before the storm and I think to have something like a Fleetwood Mac song in the midst of all this blood and gore is the best part of the movie.”
“It was an honor to get to sing it, and I hope and pray I did it justice. I was more nervous about that than anything else in the movie and that says a lot because I do a lot of brave things in this movie. I was definitely more nervous about that because it’s such a powerful beautiful song. What was really interesting to me [was] my whole life I thought it was about something else but really it’s about coming to terms with the fact you might have to give up on your dream for love and you might have to make sacrifices or are you going to give up love or you’re going to keep your career going and knowing there’s an ending to either one and they can’t both coexist.”
“I think the symbolism there for Bobby Lane and [everyone] is they know they’re sacrificing a lot by doing this job, but they also have ideas, and they view themselves as getting ahead and really becoming something. So, it’s almost sad and ironic that that’s the last song that happens before [everything goes south.]”
X is now in theater. To learn more about X check out our full interview in the video above.