MAXXXINE Sticks the Landing for Ti West’s Blood Soaked Feminist Trilogy

MaXXXine has Ti West and Mia Goth teaming up yet again to cap off a trilogy they started with 2022’s X, a film that followed a group of adult film stars in 1979 who are picked off one by one by an homicidal elderly couple, while shooting an X-rated film on their farm. That first film had Goth doing double duty as an ambitious adult starlet Maxine Minx and Pearl, the elderly murderous matriarch, who sees something of herself in the young woman. While a horror film first and foremost, that first film was a very sex positive look at the porn industry in a way that I found equally progressive and smart. Maxine was the only one who survived that massacre, and when we last saw her, she didn’t wait for the police, but was fleeing on her way to Hollywood to make it as a star. 

That first film established Minx as a force to be reckoned with, when it came to fighting for her life and also her dream of being a star, by almost any means necessary. 

The second film, Pearl was a prequel if you will and had both West and Goth exploring the origin of Pearl’s life in a technicolor nightmare that was equal parts Wizard of Oz and American Psycho. Shot back to back with X during the COVID pandemic, while the first film was more of an ensemble piece, Pearl was a powerful singular character study. This gave Goth the spotlight and the ability to dig into Pearl as a person and somehow get us to genuinely feel empathy for the troubled woman as she falls in love with the cinema, only to have her dreams of stardom dashed. That’s when Pearl begins to unravel and the bodies begin to pile up. While the first film was about the beginning of Maxine’s journey, this film showed a possible outcome of what would happen to someone as driven as Maxine if she got to Hollywood and was denied entry.  

Now with MaXXXine, we catch up with Minx six years after the events of X as Maxine is trying to attempt a Traci Lords and parlay her hard earned adult stardom into her first mainstream role in a horror film. Taking place in 1985 in Hollywood, we have the Satanic Panic in full swing along with the very real Night Stalker, who from 84 to 85 killed 14 people casting an ominous shadow over LA. Unlike Pearl, Maxine proves she’s got that X-factor by landing the role in Puritan 2 thanks to director Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki), in a move that allows the film to comment on the mark left on female actresses when they do adult films and try to go mainstream. Just as Maxine gets her big break however, a sleazy private detective (Kevin Bacon) shows up threatening to pin the deaths of all her friends from the first film and the couple on her, if she doesn’t comply with his mysterious employer’s requests.

This employer is also using every trick from the Dario Argento black gloved, trench-coated killer hand book to kill those around Maxine copying the Night Stalker’s M.O. thus making Maxine a person of interest.

Like the two films before it, there’s an undercurrent subtext, this time about women in Hollywood and how hard it is for them both in front of the camera and behind it. Elizabeth Debicki is very candid that she cast Maxine against the wishes of the studio who wanted to avoid the controversy, because she thought she was simply the best choice for the role and she was willing to fight for her. It’s her candor and compassion that endears her to Maxine, so when she tells her that “whatever she’s got distracting her needs to be taken care of” so they can concentrate on the film, this has Maxine going full Linda Blair in Savage Streets on those who oppose her ascension to stardom. To add some more pathos to Maxine’s struggle with survival versus vengeance, we see her still processing the trauma and survivor’s guilt from the slaughter on the farm six years ago. It’s something Goth uses to fuel some of the film’s more gnarly kills, when she’s forced to defend herself.

Given the second film, I was actually resigned to what kind of narrative gymnastics West would probably employ to make Maxine the killer, but thankfully West and Goth show us another path and one that leaves the door just open enough for another adventure. The bastard child of a 70s Italian Giallo and an 80’s American exploitation flick, MaXXXine manages to cap the series, with a satisfying conclusion, delivering unto horror fandom an sex-postive, kick ass cocaine addicted female antihero. It’s a role that Goth is no doubt having the time of her life playing along with everyone else in the film who also seem to be loving the seedy decade of decadence. That coupled with a script that understands the tropes, and their pitfalls, gives us a nostalgic foray that manages to not get lost in the neon drenched sauce, which is my biggest complaint when you have throwback films like these. MaXXXine feels just enough like its own entity, even though it traffics in these nostalgic cinematic vices. 

It’s impressive that not only do we have a serialized feminist horror trilogy, but all the films are all directed/written by the same director starring the same actor, which is an accomplishment in itself in genre.  They somehow also managed to wrap up the story in a way that narratively makes sense along with sub-textually. Because while Maxine’s journey was similar to Pearl’s, both ambitious women who’s journeys were fraught with the pitfalls of their gender at the time. We do however see some hope in Maxine’s story, that she was able to get the role, and not have to become an old lady feeding porn stars to alligators. MaXXXine was a neon drenched nightmare with its tongue firmly in its cheek and one that I hope will continue in the future. Goth and West have created something special here, that felt completely uncompromising in its trajectory, and while it flirted with these icons of genre, these inspirations only worked to birth its latest addition – Maxine Motherfuckin’ Minx. 

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