Review: MaXXXine


I’ve never been the biggest fan of Ti West’s trilogy. Serving as clear homages to different eras of filmmaking, each entry in his series never really worked for me as either an effective horror movie or as a love letter to the period of Hollywood Ti West was clearly trying to replicate. From the grindhouse era of the 70s with Xto the golden age wonder of Pearland now the sleaze-viewed lense of 80s cinema with MaXXXine, I think I’ve respected each movie for what they’ve attempted more than admired them as individual films.

That doesn’t mean that they’re bad films. They all have their moments and are all elevated by the commanding performances of Mia Goth, but without her, we have fairly standard horror movies that are banking on their abilities to replicate a particular style of filmmaking rather than their strengths as independent movies. With that in mind, I don’t think that MaXXXine is the worst of these films, but it easily has the most problems of the trilogy and kind of encompasses the problem with making this a series in the first place.

MaXXXine | Official Trailer HD | A24

Director: Ti West
Release Date: July 5, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: R

Set in 1985, a few years after the events of X, Maxine (Mia Goth) has found her way to Hollywood and is on her way to becoming a star. She starts first making adult films (aka porn) but secures the lead role in an upcoming controversial horror film called The Puritan II. As Maxine begins rehearsal, she’s followed by a private detective, played by Kevin Bacon, who knows about the murders she committed in X and is attempting to frame her at the behest of an unknown client. While this is happening, the real-life serial killer known as the Night Stalker is killing women in Hollywood, including some of Maxine’s friends, and two police officers, played by Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale, are starting to follow Maxine to see if she can provide them with any information about the Night Stalker and who may be murdering these women.

Given that general plot description, it’s somewhat easy to see just how stuffed the movie is with a lot of different plots vying for screen time. Not only do we have Maxine’s attempt to gain fame and notoriety, but we also have the Night Stalker killings, Kevin Bacon’s PI investigating her, the police investigating her, Maxine coming to terms with the events of X, and even her coming to terms with her religious upbringing at the hands of her father, played by Simon Prast. It just feels a bit too much and it results in the film doing the one thing that it absolutely should not have done – taking away from Mia Goth’s performance.

There are so many side characters who pop in to voice their own opinions of fame, religion, and plenty of other topics that result in Mia Goth rarely having an opportunity to stretch her acting chops. The most we get is the introductory scene, where she’s at an audition and she goes all in trying to convince the directors and producers she’s the woman they’re looking for. There’s also a brief scene where Maxine gets mugged but flips the script on the mugger in a way that really shows how hardened she’s become since X, but every other scene she’s in feels like the other actors are in control and she’s just along for the ride.

Review: MaXXXine

Copyright: A24

And that’s not entirely a bad thing, just to make myself clear. Kevin Bacon chews the scenery like crazy and Giancarlo Esposito is a ray of jovial sunshine as he tries to help Maxine make her way up the ranks of Hollywood. Even Simon Prast delivers an unhinged performance that feels right at home with televangelists of the era. They’re not bad performances, but they’re not the reason most of us are here. We’re here to see Mia Goth. Again, I was not a fan of Pearl, but the two best scenes in the movie are when Mia Goth takes complete control and delivers a hauntingly in-depth monologue and one of the best final shots in horror movie history. Those movies proved that she has talent, but MaXXXine, despite being named after the central character, makes Mia Goth feel like a side character in her own film.

The themes that the trilogy played with are still here and they’re still handled about as well as they’ve been in the other films. We see religious fundamentalism and its impact on society, with more and more people growing outraged at the more violent and boundary-breaking imagery of the 80s, the desire for fame, and the sting of regret. Granted, that last theme isn’t as strong as the other two and feels like an afterthought by the time we reach the climax, but it’s cleverly baked into its antagonist, a character that is somewhat confusingly handled. Sure, setting your movie in the midst of the real-life killings of the Night Stalker is fine, but that angle is dropped rather suddenly and its handling left a weird aftertaste in my mouth.

Another thing that kind of puzzled me was the film’s focus on the 1980s in general. While the previous movies all had moments that referenced films of the eras they were replicating and offered a fairly accurate representation of the culture at the time, I can’t really say the same for MaXXXine. Its use of 80s imagery and iconography are surface level at best and even trying to recreate the main horror gimmick of the era – the slasher movie – felt half-baked and not fully executed. MaXXXine does have a body count, but the kills feel less gruesome than the average slasher and feel more reminiscent of modern horror movies.

Review: MaXXXine

Copyright: A24

I understand that most of this review so far has been pretty negative, but I want to stress that I don’t think this is a bad movie. Yes, there are a ton of flaws that do bring it down, yet none of these problems are unforgivable sins. Yes, Mia Goth doesn’t command the film like she did in early entries, but her performance is still rock solid and serves as a natural evolution of her character. The kills may not be as extravagant, but I would argue that MaXXXine is less of a horror movie and more of a thriller as we try to piece together who the Night Stalker is, making the lack of gory kills much more forgivable. What the movie does have to say about the influence religion has on people is similar to the same message from the past two films, but it still delivers a more complicated examination of it than other films that use religion as a part of their horror.

No, if you were to ask me what the biggest problem of MaXXXine is, it’s, ironically enough, that it lacks a certain x-factor. The last two movies felt somewhat shocking and unique because of how they handled their themes, cast, setting, and scares, but MaXXXine feels almost conventional. It feels like a horror movie I’ve seen before and one that isn’t all that amazing in the first place, which tracks given the fairly standard execution of Ti West’s earlier entries. Horror is constantly elevating itself and while I have no problem with a film like MaXXXine lovingly recreating an era of horror filmmaking that has long past, it has to actually do something unique and exciting with it and not just recycle a lot of ideas Ti West has used before.

If this is to be the end of Ti West’s horror trilogy, then MaXXXine isn’t the worst note for it to end on. Mia Goth still delivered a solid performance and while the film can be a mess at times, some moments worked. The cast is great, even though they take away from Mia Goth’s performance, and the 80s set dressing, for as surface-level as it is, is still visually interesting and cool. There are better horror movies out there, but this one is inoffensive enough, though simply calling it inoffensive may be the biggest insult I can sling at a movie boasting about its triple-X factor.




MaXXXine still has a lot of what makes Ti West's horror films work, namely Mia Goth, but they have to fight against everything else he jams into this overstuffed homage to the 80s.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.