All hail Mia Goth! In the prequel to March 2022’s “X”, Goth plays the younger version of her character from that film (yes, she played both Maxine and the old lady). Released only a few months later, “Pearl” gives us the origin story of this character and why she became this murderous grandma. Surprise, it rocks!
Mia Goth is obviously the star of the show, giving a horror performance on the levels of Toni Collette in Hereditary, Florence Pugh in Midsommar, Lupita Nyong’o in Us, and even Kathy Bates in Misery. Goth commands the screen, creating a character that you can’t help but root for despite her murderous tendencies. When she’s fighting with her mother, talking to the creepy projectionist, and dealing with Mitzy, it was difficult to resist screaming “You go girl!” at the top of my lungs. At one point near the end of the film, Goth delivers one of the most incredible monologues put to screen. It was done in this horrifying one-take scene and shook me to my core. Everyone in their theater was holding their breath, and when that scene was over, I felt like clapping. Goth nails EVERYTHING: the screaming, the crying, the killing, and the goofy dancing. In a just world, the Oscar would be hers.
Mia Goth’s revelatory performance is complimented by a stellar plot and legitimate terror. It’s technically somewhat similar to the plot of “X”, where a young woman wants to become a star and is willing to do anything for it. However, she then goes on this murder spree for reasons I won’t spoil, and they’re some of the goriest (but also the most entertaining) scenes of the year. The extreme gore can be downright hilarious at times because of how well it’s executed. There are also quite a few truly bone-chilling scenes near the end. I was almost brought to tears by how simultaneously frightening and beautiful a couple of scenes were. While X was gory and campy, Pearl is horrifying.
Some other highlights of the film are Eliot Rockett’s cinematography and Ti West’s direction. Because of Pearl’s breathtaking color grading, the world the film takes place in feels surreal, like it’s “The Wizard of Oz.” Thanks to this, the film feels allowed to be as insane as it wants, from its over-the-top gore to its psychotic performances (Tandi Wright as Pearl’s mother is the other standout from the cast). I joked to my friends afterwards that this film is basically a Jaques Demy horror flick; there’s dancing, some singing, and the colors are their own character. Even the blood is gorgeous. I honestly want every shot in this film framed on my wall, it’s that beautiful. The editing choices are also genius, as it expertly pays homage to the editing of early films.
As someone who wasn’t huge on X on my first viewing, I guarantee that Pearl will become a staple of both modern horror and “Good For Her” cinema. This was such an amazing and frightening experience. But as both the characters of Pearl and Maxine say, Mia Goth is a “fucking star.” This film would not work nearly as well without her. Goth’s work here feels destined to be mentioned as one of the best horror performances in recent memory (and in my humble opinion, of all time). “MaXXXine” is easily my most anticipated film now, and I will be at the theater opening night READY for whatever madness Ti West and Mia Goth bring to the table.