PEARL (2022) l VVS Films | September 16, 2022
Starring: Mia Goth, David Corenswet
Director: Ti West
In this prequel set decades before the grisly events of Ti West’s hit slasher X, Mia Goth returns as the future psycho-biddy Pearl, here a starry-eyed farm girl with a short fuse and a deadly ambition.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
Pearl is a technicolor, fairy-tale-esque nightmare from the mind of Ti West and Mia Goth that serves as a prequel for the A24/VVS FIlms horror hit X that is a visual wonder to behold.
When X released earlier this year, Ti West treated audiences to an excellent 70s slasher in the vein of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But, he surprised fans with a teaser trailer after the film’s credit for the second film in his horror series which had already been shot: Pearl. Written during the mandatory quarantine before entering New Zealand to shoot X by West and star Mia Goth, Pearl explores the murderous origins of Pearl, long before the film crew rented her coach house. It’s incredible that not only was this film written so quickly, but the fact that they finished shooting X on a Friday and began Pearl on the following Monday, transforming sets to be revamped for the late 1910s is truly a testament to West’s passion for the character and this franchise, and the efforts of the production team.
Set during the end of the First World War, the film follows a young Pearl, who is living on her isolated family farm, wanting nothing more to break free and to create her own glamorous life like she’s seen in so many movies. While this film situates itself in the horror genre, it is very much a character piece during which Goth dazzles. Compared to X, there are fewer kills as the first half of the film spends time explaining the circumstances that made Pearl the unhinged killer we met in X. But when we get to the kills in the second half, they are brutal, disturbing and incredibly gory.
Unlike X which was washed in darkness, Pearl is bright and colourful, which allows the oozing red blood to pop off the screen against the beautiful green grass, blue sky backdrops. The cinematography uses lots of long and wide shots for the kill sequences, allowing the madness to explode across the screen. It’s a truly glorious ode to the films of the 1930s and 40s, giving off the vibe of a very twisted version of The Wizard of Oz. Also matching the time era and genre of film that West and Goth set out to imitate is the film’s musical score from Tyler Bates and Timothy Williams. It is bright and vibrant, like the film’s visuals, especially during Pearl’s audition dance number where the score takes over the film. But mixed into these bright and sweet melodies is a darkness, which takes centre stage during the kill sequences.
Turning to the performances, David Corenswet is good as the Projectionist at the local cinema who sets his eyes on Pearl. Corenswet has the perfect charming charisma to pull off the role, while providing that sinister undertone to create the man who just wants to use and take advantage of Pearl for his own benefit.
But, the standout of the film is Goth’s performance as Pearl. She loves the camera, and the camera loves her as she brings to life this seemingly sweet and innocent young woman. Though, as the story progresses, Goth begins to show the cracks in Pearl and slowly turns her into the murderous woman who terrified us earlier this year in X. It's a cartoonish performance at times, but it perfectly fits the tone and Goth kills it.
Then there is her big seven minute monologue at the climax of the film. Goth perfectly executes the dialgoue in a fashion that has you hanging on her every word as the camera does not break focus on her for a second, while she truly disturbs you because during the monologue you are watching her complete her transformation into the murderous Pearl we know. Then you have the truly horrifying credits with Goth holding her smile for as long as she can, allowing you to slowly see her face muscles spasm as she begins to cry from holding the face for so long, showing Goth’s dedication to this role and performance. It truly is the performance of the year in a horror film, and I cannot wait for Goth and West’s next collaboration… and speaking of… West once again drops a teaser at the end of the film’s credits teasing the next installment in the X franchise. So make sure to stay around until the very end of the film, because West is showing no signs of slowing down the excellent horror films he is creating. Beautifully shot and full of colour and life, despite it being twisted in every sense of the word, Mia Goth shines in Pearl, which is the sugar-coated nightmare that will delight fans of the horror genre
RATING: 3.5 out of 5