SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains crucial plot points from X all throughout. You might wanna get busy with the recent horror favorite if you have not already before you read about all the dirty details below.
I don’t know about you, but it was not until the credits began to roll on my first time watching 2022’s X — one of A24’s best horror movies yet — when I realized that Mia Goth actually played two characters: adult film star-in-the-making Maxine and unhinged senior citizen Pearl. Immediately, I was mystified over what writer and director Ti West’s intention was behind this unusual double-casting and initially assumed it was merely to reinforce the otherwise grisly slasher’s thoughtful themes of elders longing for their youth and the divisive nature of generational gaps. However, as theater-goers would learn from a post-credits teaser, it was also a means to see Goth come back for the film’s upcoming prequel.
The British actor reprises her older X character (with far less makeup this time) as the title role of a new horror film that explores Pearl’s life years before the events of the 1979-set horror flick. In fact, Goth co-wrote the script for the origin story with West — which, to me, is very telling of how committed she is to the role and to making this new film a killer, character-driven experience. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves before Pearl hits theaters on Friday, September 16, 2022, and, instead, prepare ourselves by taking a closer look back at what we already know about the character.
Pearl Grew Up With Dreams Of Stardom
After the X cast (also including Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Owen Campbell, and reigning Scream Queen Jenna Ortega) arrives at a farm in rural Texas owned by an elderly couple to secretly film a porno called The Farmer’s Daughters, Maxine shares a glass of lemonade with the lady of the house, Pearl. The already awkward moment gets weirder as Pearl enviously reveals her similarity to the young hopeful starlet (outside of being played by the same actor) having once been an aspiring entertainer herself and, more specifically, a dancer.
We see glimpses of this stage in Pearl’s life from the trailer for her upcoming, self-titled origin story, which shows her auditioning for what appears to be a stage play in front of a panel of casting directors looking for, as Henderson’s Wayne also called it in X, “X factor.” The teaser also sees the character giving her all in some elaborately choreographed dance numbers. However, I would not be surprised if those lavish scenes turned out to be a fantasy that further fuels her envious bloodlust… but more on that later.
Pearl Is Married To A World War I Veteran
Before we meet Pearl in X, we meet her husband, Howard — played by Australian Lord of the Rings star Stephen Ure, who, like Mia Goth as his onscreen wife, is not as old as his character. While he takes an immediate dislike to Wayne and the rest of his film crew — perhaps for no other reason than their youth — he does manage to have some form of a bond with Scott Mescudi’s character, Jackson, having both served in the Army. While Jackson is a Vietnam War veteran, Howard can claim to have seen the First and Second World Wars with his own eyes.
We may be able to see World War I through Howard’s eyes in Pearl, which takes place in 1918 and features a younger version of the character played Alistair Sewell from Netflix’s The Power of the Dog cast. According to THR’s review, Howard is away for much of the film serving his country while Pearl suffers from separation anxiety on both an emotional and sexual level. That actually brings us to our next point.
Pearl Is Sexually Frustrated
Keen-eyed horror fans know that there is more to X than blood and dismemberment (even though there is more than plenty of it), as it's really a story of about the trials of aging and how it may affect one’s sex life. Coming face-to-face with the film’s younger and sexually active characters causes Pearl to long for her glory days and for the sexual satisfaction that her husband can no longer provide due to his health. It actually makes her more empathetic — when she is not making overt advances toward Maxine and R.J. (Owen Campbell), that is — and gives a certain sweetness to the otherwise intense and scary moment in which Maxine is trapped under a bed that Pearl and Howard finally make love in.
Pearl’s sexuality will also play a role in the prequel, as seen by a few key clips from the trailer. The most evident is one moment that foreshadows her later association with the porn industry in X, in which she watches what appears to be a primitive adult film from a projectionist booth and asks the projectionist (David Corenswet) if it is legal, to which he replies, “It will be eventually.” Her curiosity for this kind of art clearly never faltered but, by the time she reached the age she is in X, it would supposedly curdle into an envious rage.
Pearl Is A Homicidal Maniac
X introduces the latest of cinema’s greatest female horror movie villains in the form of Pearl, who kills almost all of the cast and crew of The Farmer’s Daughters with the help of Howard, excluding final girl Maxine. Because each of her murderous acts (from decapitating R.J. to keeping what seems to be a mutilated sex slave in the basement) appear to be in reaction to her own sexual hang-ups, you could come to the conclusion that her motivation is jealousy toward these sexually active youths intruding on her home. However, that is not quite the case after all.
As the trailer for Pearl reveals, the character has been experiencing murderous tendencies (and acting on them) since her youth, but the root cause does not appear to be sexual frustration. She seems to hold resentment toward her ailing father (Matthew Sunderland) and domineering mother (Tandi Wright) for stifling her ambitions toward fame, based on an outright confession to her projectionist friend that her life might be better “if only they would just die.” Subsequent, graphic clips from the teaser suggest that at least one of her dreams will come true in the end.
An Alligator Lives In Pearl’s Pond
Two of the most memorable moments from X involve an alligator in a pond on Howard and Pearl’s farmland. Earlier in the film, Maxine unwittingly takes a swim with the reptile in the daytime and, near the end, Pearl feeds Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) to it after the unassuming young actor offered to help her back to bed. For anyone hoping we might see more of this beast in Pearl, you are in luck… well, sort of.
While it might not be the same exact alligator from X — considering the animal typically lives just 30-50 years — Pearl’s trailer reveals that an alligator does appear in the film as an accomplice to the title character’s bloody rampage. What we can confirm, however, is that the alligator lives in the same pond from X, which means that Howard and Pearl’s farm is the one she also grew up on with her parents. I guess home is where the horror is.
Horror movie prequels (let alone sequels) are not usually something that fans get particularly excited about, but with the 18th-Century-set sci-fi thriller Prey and Isabelle Fuhrmann’s return to the role of Esther in Orphan: First Kill appearing on the 2022 movies schedule, it has been a surprisingly good year for them so far. Perhaps Pearl will carry on that streak.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.