MaXXXine Ends the Trilogy on a Mostly Good Note

Photo courtesy of A24

When Ti West made X back in 2022, the film was a welcome return to the genre that put him on the map, but nobody expected it to turn into a franchise. However, as I’m sure you know, we all turned out to be completely wrong. West is now capping off the X trilogy with the much-anticipated MaXXXine, and like a lot of horror fans, I’ve been anxiously awaiting this movie ever since it was announced. I was confident that it would cement the trilogy as one of horror’s best, and now that I’ve finally seen it, I’m happy to report that I walked out mostly satisfied.

MaXXXine was written and directed by Ti West, and it stars Mia Goth, Elizabeth Debicki, Moses Sumney, Michelle Monaghan, Bobby Cannavale, Giancarlo Esposito, and Kevin Bacon. Since X, the titular Maxine Minx has been making a name for herself in the adult film industry, but she wants to climb higher. She’s obsessed with being famous, so she’s trying to make the jump to mainstream movies.

As our main character is working on becoming a star, a serial killer called the Night Stalker roams the streets, and one day, this murderous maniac seems to set his sights on Maxine. He even appears to know some disturbing details about the woman’s past, so she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands.

I have to be honest, for most of its runtime, MaXXXine is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, the acting in this movie is excellent, so no matter what’s happening on screen, these characters are always a joy to watch. Even the bit players who only get a line or two are great, but to nobody’s surprise, the best performance in the film belongs to Mia Goth.

A man with blood on his face
Photo courtesy of A24

Just like in X, Goth plays Maxine, and once again, she’s absolutely captivating. When the movie begins, she has the self-assured poise of someone who truly believes she’s the best at what she does, and while that could’ve easily made the character unlikable, Goth somehow manages to avoid that pitfall. Even if you’re not a fan of Maxine as a person, this woman is just so magnetic that you can’t help but enjoy watching her go about her daily life.

What’s more, as MaXXXine progresses, Mia Goth has to add some more layers to her performance, and that makes Maxine shine even more. To take just a couple of examples, there are times when she has to be sheepish, and there are scenes where she’s being haunted by her past, and Goth totally nails it every time.

But despite those great performances, MaXXXine really struggles to tell a compelling story. Granted, the mystery surrounding Maxine and the killer is interesting, but it’s not nearly fleshed out enough. See, the film tries to be both a serial killer thriller and a character study, but at only 104 minutes, it doesn’t have time to be both.

It ends up shortchanging both halves of its identity, so the movie would’ve been significantly better if it had chosen one track and stuck with it. Instead, it just feels like a half-baked hodgepodge that’s not entirely sure what it wants to be, and that drags the film down quite a bit.

Along similar lines, the horror in MaXXXine also feels like an exercise in unreached potential. The killer is a giallo-esque villain who wears black gloves and whose identity is shrouded in mystery, but he doesn’t really do much. Sure, you see the aftermath of his work a number of times, but he only gets one on-screen kill, and it comes 50 minutes into the movie.

A woman looking serious
Photo courtesy of A24

That lack of in-camera action almost makes it seem like his bark is bigger than his bite, so even though you know this guy is a vicious murderer, it’s tough to take him seriously as a legitimate slasher. You simply never feel the enormity of the threat he poses, and that doesn’t just diminish the horror. It also weakens the mystery, so it’s like a one-two punch of mediocrity.

All that being said, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I didn’t dislike the first two acts of MaXXXine. The great characters (especially Maxine herself) and the bits and pieces of interesting horror storytelling are just enough to keep the film afloat, so despite having some big issues with this part of the movie, I still mostly enjoyed it.

However, it was on pretty thin ice, so it needed to finish strong to earn a thumbs up from me. And thankfully, the last half 25-30 minutes are the best part of the film. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I will say that this final act does everything the first two-thirds of the movie didn’t. The action picks up, there’s a bit of genuinely creepy horror, and most interestingly, it uses the story’s period setting in a really clever way.

See, MaXXXine takes place in the 1980s, the era of satanic panic, and it leans pretty heavily into that societal uproar. We see people protesting supposedly diabolical horror films multiple times throughout the movie, and when we get to the finale, writer/director Ti West flips those protests completely on their heads.

That makes for a fun and thematically satisfying third act, so despite my issues with the film, I still walked out of it pretty happy. Granted, MaXXXine is hands down the weakest entry in the X trilogy, but if you liked the previous two movies, I think you’re going to enjoy this one, even if you don’t quite love it.

MaXXXine is set to hit theaters on July 5.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters. You can find him on Twitter @jpnunezhorror.

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