6.5/10 The second chapter of a trilogy we didn’t know we needed, “Pearl” was filmed back to back with “X” to keep the budget low. “X” came out in March and only six months later we get this film, which is actually a prequel to “X”. The character of Pearl in “X” was played by Mia Goth (taking on two different roles) as an octogenarian with a dark secret. This film sees Pearl in her youth and how she started to become the monster she ends up being by the time we get to “X”. If you are expecting a retread of “X” where characters are killed off one by one in the typical horror genre fashion, you might be disappointed but I for one am glad that co-writer/director/co-editor Ti West changed up the formula a bit instead of just recycling the premise of “X” and repeating himself. Instead of a straight up horror film, we get an origin story that pays homage to the olden days of film, when you could pay 25 cents for a ticket to the pictures. The opening of this film will get you more in the mood of seeing “The Wizard of Oz” than a horror film but the joyful, nostalgia of yesteryear quickly fades. The score from Tyler Bates and Tim Williams is pitch perfect at capturing all of the moods and tones that West wants to get across to his audience. There are some unexpected twists and turns which I enjoyed but the highlight of the film has to be the unhinged performance from Mia Goth (who also co-writes), with some of the creepiest ending credits I’ve ever seen in a film. Not since Viola Davis having tears and snot run down her face in “Fences” has a woman’s face in a film been so hauntingly memorable. It is prettycommon knowledge how The Academy often overlooks films in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres with few exceptions (“The Exorcist”, “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, etc.). While I think it is safe to say that neither “X” nor “Pearl” will be getting any Oscar nominations, Mia Goth gives one of the best female performances of 2022 thus far. Perhaps some of the other truly great female performances are coming up in the months ahead with Oscar season quickly approaching but if this is a slightly weaker year in the Best Actress category, I’d say that Mia Goth deserves to slip into that nomination category. She conveys many different emotions and is able to show so much with just her facial expressions and without words. As for what doesn’t work, there is nothing ground breaking that you haven’t seen before (“X” was the same way) and there is always a fine line to walk with nostalgia. Sometimes nostalgia can be seen as manipulative to have you wearing rose colored glasses and distract you from a lack of substance. “Pearl” has some substance but nothing very deep or meaningful. “X” was definitely more thrilling as it contained more death, violence and sex. “Pearl” feels a little tamer in comparison but at least it doesn’t try to just copy the formula from “X”. In the end, “X” and “Pearl” are good companion pieces that you can have fun with if you keep your expectations in check. They are by no means horror classics but they are well paced to keep you entertained from start to finish and if you get nothing else out of “Pearl”, you can at least have your eyes opened to how talented Mia Goth is. The third installment in the trilogy is a direct sequel to “X” that takes place a few years later and is entitled “MaXXXine”, which I am excited to see what West and Goth can cook up next.

#MotherOfPearl / #SubvertsYourXpectations / #LikeAGothToTheFlame / #GirlWithAPearlSneering / #PearlInterrupted / #TryOutsAndDieOuts

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