‘Pearl’ Is A Wickedly Superb Entry For The Horror Genre – TIFF 2022 Review
“Break a leg!”
Ti West returns in the same year with the prequel to X, Pearl—a phenomenal technicolor horror that displays the psychological descent of the titular character. Written by Ti West and Mia Goth, Goth brilliantly reprises her role as Pearl to highlight this degradation of a young woman.
It’s 1918. The first world war and a global pandemic are wiltering. Pearl lives with her mother and father in the same rural Texas home we were introduced to in X. Decades before the gruesome scene that occurs there, there is already a stillness that haunts the house. She is anchored to this town as a first-generation German-American by her callous mother, ailing father, and husband, who is away at war. Through all of this, Pearl longs for more in her life. She dreams of becoming a star, but at this time, the pressure is on young women to handle responsibilities above their own aspirations. Pearl has been unwell but reaches a boiling point through the stress and repression she experiences. With her short fuse, she decides nothing will get in her way once she receives the taste of opportunity. Beauty and youth are currency, and Pearl does not want to wait until her parents are gone to achieve her dreams.
In the first moments, we’re introduced to Pearl in X; it seems she and Maxine are a dichotomy of each other. As we find out shortly later, Maxine is a reflection of Pearl decades before—the main difference between them being that Maxine has people around her assuring her that she’s a star. In contrast, Pearl is repeatedly told the opposite. Pearl further emphasizes this, enriching the chilling nature of the character. The rule of thumb for horror villains is less is more. A shroud of mystery and the unknown keeps the terror alive, but Pearl is the exception, enhancing X and the character to new heights.
Ti West has made two of the best horror movies of the year and the most refreshing horror of the decade. Leaning into grindhouse slasher with X and a psychological, claustrophobic fever dream with Pearl, he masters two different subgenres of horror. Pearl is reminiscent of a vintage film, successfully capturing the early 1900s style of filmmaking with a modern approach. This makes the film stand out amongst the genre, and I believe this will speak to a multitude of fans of cinema—even the ones that shy away from horror.
With many fantastic performances under her belt, Pearl is the film that cements Goth as one of the most interesting Scream Queens right now. She is a tour-de-force with the ability to captivate us through her craft, even as she is stepping into a vicious character. Being stuck through Pearl’s perspective places the viewer into a nightmare you’ll want to claw out of in the best possible way. The film concludes with my favorite final shot and end credits in recent memory, and I’ll leave out my reaction to this so you can experience it on your own. It’s brilliant.
There is so much to chew on with Pearl. Days later, I’m still reflecting on the many facets it has to offer. Ti West accomplished a feat of fantastic filmmaking and storytelling. A look into the broken psyche of a young woman, this film is a wickedly superb entry into the horror genre and easily one of my favorites of the year. When X ended with the trailer for Pearl, I knew we were in for a treat, and I enjoyed every minute of this runtime.