Mia Goth is back and bloodier than ever, reprising her role of Pearl in the second installment of Ti West’s “X” trilogy.
If you haven’t seen “X,” there are some light spoilers in here, so go watch it before you read this.
“Pearl” begins in 1918, 61 years before the events of “X;” with our favorite bag-of-bones murderer in her youth, back on the farm and waiting for her husband to return from war.
We follow her throughout her daily responsibilities, taking care of her sickly father, tending to the farm, attempting to please her mother and reprising the silly, little dance she does during “X.”
Pearl takes on the difficult challenge of being a murderer as well as a daughter with both mommy and daddy issues; as she is desperate to leave her home to flee her controlling mother and immobile father. She finds solace in the theater (and its Projectionist) and the chance to become a traveling dancer with the church, refusing to let anything stand in her way from becoming a star and leaving a trail of carnage in her wake.
At the end of its first official day in theaters, “Pearl” was at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, slightly underperforming its predecessor, “X,” which remains one of the highest-rated horror films of the year thus far, still sitting at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Prequels are often more difficult to pull off than sequels, and though “Pearl” holds its own, it’s not as entertaining as “X.” At points, it feels like the plot of “Pearl” was cut short since it has to line up with the rest of the timeline. But overall, it was a little bit too predictable for me – you don’t learn much that you wouldn’t have been able to infer from how Pearl acts in the first film, and every kill is heavily foreshadowed throughout the movie.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t like the film. I did. Goth is absolutely perfect for this role; as someone who’s seen “X” seven times, the slight acting choices that define Pearl in the first film really have their chance to shine in the second. She has this wonderful way of latching onto the most unsettling parts of Pearl and really sinking into them. At one point, Goth has this incredible six-minute monologue where she shows the intricacies of the character and really separates the performance of Pearl from that of Maxine in “X.”
Something else worth noting about the film is how clearly you’re able to see Pearl’s descent into madness through the hallucinations that present themselves as she performs. I wish this was utilized a bit more since the concept of performance as an escape from reality is so heavily emphasized as an overarching theme. But it works well enough for that to really be my only gripe about the movie.
In terms of gore, “Pearl” is just as bloody as “X,” but the deaths are slower and more violent. There’s not much that would make the average viewer queasy since the deaths are treated as events rather than plot points, but they do look very realistic so take that how you want to.
Within the end credits, the final film within the “X” trilogy, “MaXXXine” is teased; featuring Goth in her original role of Maxine, taking on Hollywood six years after the events of the first film.
According to deadline.com, this film has not been shot yet, but after the success of both “X” and “Pearl,” I’m sure we can expect “MaXXXine” to hit the big screen in the next year or so.
Overall, “Pearl” was a little less than what I expected, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. I would draw a closer comparison of “Pearl” to “Midsommar” than I would from “Pearl” and “X,” but it’s a decent prequel and definitely worth the trip to the movie theater.