Pearl15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
It’s not unusual to see monsters on the big screen in various guises. Some have made so many returns that the franchise has also included an origins story, which has become more and more prevalent in recent years.
What is rare on screen however is a monster depicted by a woman, and even less rare is her origins tale.
Director Ti West attempts to redress the balance somewhat with this prequel to his horror film X, as we return to Powder Kegs Farm as Pearl’s origin tale unfolds.
Living on a farm with her mom and dad is Pearl (Mia Goth). Farm’s are never easy places to grow up, as there is always work that needs doing, but it’s particularly difficult for both Pearl and her mum Ruth (Tandie Wright) as dad (Matthew Sunderland) the head of the family is paralyzed and needs constant care and attention.
Mia then often finds herself the target of her mother’s frustrations, as it’s clearly not the life she wanted either.
Still, it doesn’t stop Pearl from dreaming big, of wanting to become a dancer, travelling the world, and finally leaving this drab existence behind.
What the world doesn’t yet know about Pearl however, is that she has a dark side, one that is only now starting to surface, and boy should the world watch out.
The first film X was a quietly confident feature from director Ti West, who up until that point, had a fairly unremarkable career directing equally unremarkable horror titles.
It was an interesting take, set in the seventies as it was, and featuring the making of a porn flick on said rural farm. Not only did it have British actor Goth in dual roles, it also featured a role for a pre Wednesday Jenny Ortega. And although it didn’t exactly scream the need for a prequel, its arrival certainly piqued some interest.
Now set in 1918, the film is an examination of how Pearl became the monster that features in X. And just as that film leant into the stylings of seventies porn, this one leans towards classic Hollywood films, most notably 1939’s The Wizard of Oz as a scarecrow rises some eyebrows, but not quite for the same reasons as it did in that classic film.
It’s a film that sees Goth almost become a parody of a monster at that time, as she pines to leave her farm life behind. There are two pivotal scenes however, one were Pearl the monster reveals her true feelings, and the other is a shot that lingers as the credits roll. Both are extremely powerful, for different reasons, and give you a strong indication as to why Goth signed up for it in the first place.
Elsewhere however, the film is more aesthetically pleasing rather than being a satisfying horror. It’s a little slow and sluggish getting to anything remotely scary, and when it finally does arrive, its promise of what’s to come is more rewarding than the kills themselves.
It could be argued that a prequel was far from necessary, as the older Pearl that featured in X is unlikely to join the existing elite monsters of cinema any time soon, but there’s a mild fascination from this prequel that has a draw of its own. West is probably hoping for more of the same, as it’s said that a third entry in this unlikely franchise MaXXXine is currently in development, that features Goth’s Maxine from X, continuing her career in porn in 1985 during the boom of the home video market.
Pearl isn’t quite a horror gem, but certainly shines as a character study featuring a young woman on a path of big dreams who gets sidetracked into the murky world of murder. Which let’s face it, is the kind of back story we all crave from a myriad of existing TV talent shows.