HomeEntertainmentPearl Movie Review | Movie Metropolis

Pearl Movie Review | Movie Metropolis

Horror films rarely call for a sequel. Inevitably, the obligation for at least a relatively firm conclusion is embedded in the genre’s DNA. Of course there are many famous horror franchises, and as Ti West himself declared you simply “can’t make a slasher movie without a bunch of sequels”.

But despite this, I cannot think of a single time that a second instalment was actually necessary for the sake of the plot. How can there be loose ends to tie up when the haunted family, the vacationing school-friends, or the blushing newly weds have already met a grim fate? Likewise Pearl, the follow-up prequel to last years 70s inspired witty gore flick X, is a film that is, at its core, entirely unneeded. But this certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch.

X starred Mia Goth as heroine and antagonist, playing the characters of both hopeful adult film star Maxine, and elderly, murderous ranch-owner Pearl. Ti West’s prequel is clearly a curtain call for Goth after her fantastic role in 2022, chronicling the origins of X’s main antagonist in a manner which morphs both narrative and cinematography into mere ornaments of Goth’s performance. Although the success of Pearl hinges solely on her, West proves, for the second time, just how warranted his confidence in her ability is.

Whilst horror tends to build towards a compulsorily horrifying conclusion, Pearl reaches its climax in a slightly less raucous manner. West’s sequel slots itself into a very specific sub-genre of horror movie. It rarely tries to be terrifying; there are no jump scares as far as I can recall, and the tension only really mounts at moments of spectacular gore. But precisely what makes Pearl stand out is that it actively thrives not on scaring its audience, but on creeping them out.

Mia Goth in Pearl movie

With only a smattering of moments of true respite, West keeps the audience in constant dread of what the titular character is capable of. To have somebody as beautiful as Mia Goth make you feel gross and uncomfortable breeches the harsh lines we typically draw in cinema between the beautiful (good) and the ugly (bad), and creates a deep sense of disorientation that helps to intensify the horror.

In fact, the film thrives on the emotional uncertainty it generates in the audience through Goth’s character. At the end of the movie, I turned to my friend with a single question in mind- the question West’s film was inevitably standing trial for following the ever dubious decision for a director to turn a horror villain into the sequel’s protagonist. When all is said and done, do you feel sorry for Pearl? The answer is almost certainly: of course.

Tandi Wright and Matthew Sunderland do a fantastic job of playing Pearl’s parents, creating space for us to feel sympathy towards a character that was previously presented purely as a villain. But director Ti West humanises Pearl to us in a way that somehow manages to magnify how frightening she is rather than exonerate her from her crimes. Sure, not everybody who grows up with a messed up family goes on a mass murder spree, but West lays the path bare for us to see how monsters can be sculpted by their environment.

None of this is to say that there aren’t other components of the film that are worth talking about. I am categorically, unequivocally, undeniably in love with the new trend of injecting bright colour palettes into a genre previously characterised for it’s darkness. With Midsommar Ari Aster proved that pastel colours can still set the tone for a terrifically scary film, and now Ti West has done the same for technicolour. Pearl’s dreams of being a dancer in the ‘pictures’ draw us into a glittering nightmare where her naive fantasies bring merriment to the dull reality of everyday life. There are so many wonderfully artistic shots throughout the film which become a true visual feast when coupled with Goth’s performance.

If you’re looking to have as much fun as you did watching X, you’re not going to find it here. But if you’ll happily settle for more Mia Goth and an off-beat, often absurd exploration of the power of voyeurism within the horror genre- then look no further. Or if you simply want to delve into a slasher-movie world of killer grandmas, adult films and pet crocodiles, Pearl will certainly get you your fix.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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