X may not have been every horror fan’s cup of bloody tea, but by the time its credits rolled to reveal a trailer for its already-filmed prequel film Pearl, any shred of indifference undoubtedly shifted into intrigue. A World War I-set prequel to an unproven horror film shot concurrently with it, centered on the film’s antagonist? You have our attention. With the eventual release of Pearl proving to be a surefire critical hit, Ti West’s announcement that there would, in fact, be a third film to wrap up this trilogy just proved that this saga has audience fascination built into its celluloid bones. MaXXXine, in its promise to return us to the story of its titular pornstar-turned-massacre-survivor-turned-budding actress, was already a gamble in its overt distancing from the character of Pearl, whose own film proved that her focus was by far the most engaging of this universe.

Maxine Minx may be, in her own words, a fucking movie star, but by the time her kitschy and somewhat hollow story comes to a close, West doesn’t make the best case that her constant craving for attention is entirely justifiable. Six years after the barnside massacre that overtook her innocent Texas porno shoot, Maxine Minx (Mia Goth returning to prove that she has far more star-power than her self-impressed character) has made the trek to Tinseltown in the hopes of shedding her, well, lack of clothing for a more esteemed career as a film actress.

Without losing an ounce of that spunk that made her both a formidable survivor and—as the film will continuously demonstrate—a household name in her risqué former field, Maxine powers through and lands a role in a horror sequel by a no-nonsense director (Elizabeth Debicki) with her own unbreakable will. Maxine’s only obstacle? A murderous stalker who may or may not (probably not…) be the real-life Night Stalker of ‘80s L.A., seemingly intent on making her an eventual target.

One thing that MaXXXine makes unmistakably clear is that Maxine herself, for all her drive to be a famous star, wasn’t ever really the most compelling force in this franchise. This isn’t for lack of trying on Goth’s part, who still enforces every one of her bullishly assertive lines with fire in her trembling octaves. Or rather, perhaps it’s exactly for lack of trying on Goth’s part, for unlike Pearl, on which she was co-writer with West, MaXXXine finds the star leaving the screenwriting reins entirely in the hands of her director. What West offers us, then, is simply not as thematically sound as what it’s promising to wrap up, nor is it firmly complete enough in its own right to work entirely as a distinct chapter.

Mia Goth as Maxine Minx & Elizabeth Debicki as Elizabeth Bender in MaXXXine (2024).
Mia Goth as Maxine Minx & Elizabeth Debicki as Elizabeth Bender in “MaXXXine” (2024).

Utilizing its cheap Hollywood backlots as much of the playground for its sanguine shenanigans, MaXXXine leaves much of its only half-heartedly serious thriller angle in the hands of its amiably pulpy cast, whose greatest strengths prove to be how much West allows them to lean into their dominating auras. Kevin Bacon is easily the standout, smugly swaggering around like he knows without question that he’s the best part of this film, while Giancarlo Esposito finally gets a chance to shed the Gus Fring mold in which he’s been trapped for over a decade, proving that he probably could have been the best part of this film had he been given more than two or three scenes.

The rest of the film, fittingly, rests on Goth’s shoulders, who ekes out as much defensive bravado as she can muster from a secretly terrified stare, but when it’s all said and done, MaXXXine falters precisely because of how much West—perhaps lost from that lack of ideas from his star-turned-(former)-writing partner—betrays his lead’s sense of agency. In one of the film’s most significant and telling moments, Maxine asserts that the victims of this homicidal maniac should simply help themselves; “I did,” she proclaims with a lump in her throat. By the time MaXXXine reaches its finale, though, it isn’t so much the reveal of who’s been after her that deflates the entire film so much as it is the subsequent wrap-up that places her in an almost completely passive position. 

By that point, you get the sense that Maxine, like many actresses, is only as tough as she can sell herself to be in front of the camera. This is, for all intents and purposes, actually a decent avenue through which to flesh out this character, except for the fact that nothing in X nor the preceding hour of MaXXXine—which in itself largely relegates her to walking around town learning that people around her are dropping like flies—really hints at this possibility. Instead, West seems intent on telling us that Maxine is actually quite a badass when the path is laid for her, and she actually gets a moment to throw in her anticipated family mantra/one-liner.

As this runs more like a mystery procedural than the full-on slashers that X and Pearl were, MaXXXine doesn’t capitalize on flashy kills so much as it does their anticipation in a moment in time where everyone was expecting to meet a bloody knife around every seedy corner of Los Angeles. Sure enough, it was the anticipation of where MaXXXine would go that drove the fans of this sudden franchise into a frenzy, but like the most uneventful acts preceded by expert sexual(ized) tension, Ti West fumbled the climax. In other words, Maxine may have left an industry of performance issues in her past, but West won’t stop them from haunting her hotly awaited shot at the Big Time, one way or another…

Read More: 10 Best Mia Goth Movie Performances

MaXXXine (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of MaXXXine (2024) Movie: Mia Goth, Elizabeth Debicki, Moses Sumney, Michelle Monaghan, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, Kevin Bacon
MaXXXine (2024) Movie Release Date: 5th July 2024 | Genre: Horror/Mystery & Thriller | Runtime: 1h 41m
Where to watch MaXXXine

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