Mia Goth in MaXXXine (2024).
Ti West completes his X trilogy of A24-distributed slasher horrors with MaXXXine (2024), a neon-lit homage to 80s video nasties, the Satanic Panic, and the art of filmmaking itself. Mia Goth returns to play the titular character, a pornographic actress who now aims to make a move to Hollywood. But her glimmering dreams are cut short when a killer is targeting other young starlets like her. Stylish chaos and a barrage of film references follow.

MaXXXine oozes with style but can get a bit self-indulgent. Ti West’s pre-X filmography bears witness to the filmmaker’s fascination with the terrors of an age gone by, from filming The House of the Devil like a 70s TV horror or using the Jonestown cult massacre as a template for The Sacrament. In X, West delightfully recreated the grainy visage of the original 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre while going for a more 50s-era Technicolor color palette in the prequel Pearl. In MaXXXine, West takes us to 1985, and on his part, the film looks like the real deal with saturated neon colors, a synth-pop soundtrack, and references to all the films of the time. Elizabeth Debicki is terrific as a British director working on a schlocky Christian horror but wants to delve beyond the “House of Hammer.” Kevin Bacon also joins the ensemble as a cheeky detective with a plastered nose, like Chinatown’s Jack Nicholson.

After a point, the references start getting a bit too much. Much like Quentin Tarantino, West’s filmmaking feels so heavy on references that after a point, it makes you wonder if he’s a film school nerd, proving to you that he has watched enough movies. It’s easy to understand why West loves homaging the classic horrors that inspired him. With moralistic fringe mobs protesting Hollywood as a “Satanic factory” and a pornstar-turned-actress finding her identity amidst serial murders, it’s easy to feel the shadow of classics like Brian DePalma’s Body Double or Paul Schrader’s Hardcore. With references to the real-life “Nightstalker Killer,” it’s also hard not to imagine if West was influenced by a period piece like Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which similarly used Charles Manson as a sidepiece. But it seems West is so involved in proving his film knowledge that MaXXXine struggles to shine on its own. The plot twists are either visible from a mile away or not shocking enough when they play out, more so if you have watched the movies that inspire West.

Mia Goth’s Maxine boldly reverses scream queen cliches. Despite an underwhelming third act and a somewhat scattershot plot, Mia Goth is still the driving force of this unusual trilogy. In X, we saw Goth play a seemingly mild-mannered newbie to the adult industry. But the gory events of the film turn her into a ruthless survivalist. In Pearl, she upped her game with a delightfully wicked turn as a younger version of the main killer in X. Returning as Maxine Mink in the franchise’s final chapter, Goth is very comfortable as an aspiring star who can go to any lengths for Hollywood glory. Learning new survival tricks from the “Pornstar Chainsaw Massacre” in X, Goth is effortlessly bold when she struts on her stilettos under the LA streetlights. Whether it is her high heels or car keys, she can also turn anything into a weapon, as can be seen from some blood-soaked scenes that will either make you laugh or squirm. Much like Maxine and Pearl before her, Goth earns the right to look at herself in the mirror and say: “I’M A STAR!”

MaXXXine might not be the best of Ti West’s X trilogy with its style-over-substance approach. But Mia Goth’s captivating performance and West’s vibrantly bloody tricks make it worth a midnight screening.

Watch MaXXXine