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Maxxxine 2.jpg

'MaXXXine' Review: Satan Bless Ti West and Mia Goth

By Lindsay Traves | Film | July 7, 2024 |

By Lindsay Traves | Film | July 7, 2024 |


Maxxxine 2.jpg

I dragged myself to the emptiest matinee I could find of X at a time when the theater was still an intimidating place to be. I later waxed poetic about the jarring experience of wrapping myself in a KN95 for the Pearl world premiere (the movie referencing its own timely pandemic). For me, it was worth it to gear up for what would become two of my favorite new horror flicks, each immediately surprising me and audiences with the promise of another. Now, at the hardly long-awaited end, Ti West and Mia Goth have wrapped their film-loving film trilogy with more nods to the horror of yore. At the finish line, they’ve rescued meta-horror from the clutches of countless Scream copycats.

Having nearly escaped death in the events of X, Maxine (Mia Goth) is flashing herself all over Hollywood proper, working to transition from porn stardom to being in the “real” movies. But what’s that about you being done with the past but the past not being done with you? Maxine’s will to do anything it takes is massively tested when a psycho killer starts hacking up those close to her, marking them in ways that fuel the flames of satanic panic. With a private detective on her tail and her friends dropping like flies, Maxine has a short weekend to clear her personal clutter so she can show up to work on Monday and make herself a movie star.

Like some of its great three-feature predecessors, this story wasn’t built as a trilogy but was warped into one as it came together. In making it a satisfying conclusion, West had to weave in enough from the first installment and change enough of the story to make for a surprising finale. Simultaneously, he crafted a meta-horror story, a gorgeous slasher, and a triumph for an anti-hero. At times, the film does too much to excel at all of it. X’s twist that Maxine is not just a final girl nor a slasher, but a psycho somewhere in between, is bled dry here for a tale of a ruthless woman with a handgun facing off against a personal villain at the time of The Night Stalker’s rein. It’s a tight rope but paired with Goth’s commanding ability to make, “I f***in nailed that,” both aggressive and endearing lets us latch onto the film’s star enough to embrace the befuddling nature of our wild lead.

West’s trilogy uses Goth as a throughline while creating three completely distinct features. It’s special that West made a trilogy out of successive love letters to different eras of film but mostly waits until his finale to make that the focus. X, Pearl, and MaXXXine are so distinct but cohesive. This time, there’s little left of The Wizard of Oz, and the 70s slasher nods come by way of headlines reminding Maxine of her past (“The Texas Porn Star Massacre”). Maxine’s time in 1985 is neon-soaked, wrapped in black gloves and hunting knives like the greatest Giallo, and glows noir by way of Body Double and Crimes of Passion. There’s a thick layer of glitter lip gloss between the audience and the kills, them sparkling with glimmers of Hollywood sleaze and the kind of grime that looks nostalgic to those who never lived it under orange and green glowing lights. 80s Hollywood and the associated sleaze is treated with reverence the way West and Goth treated each film era they danced in for this trilogy, and the chameleon in Goth (supported by hair and makeup designers Jamie Leigh McIntosh and Sarah Rubano) created a triptych that leaves me eager for future franchise marathons.

While the over-stylized kills and restraint to not send Maxine out into the night with the notorious 80s Hollywood serial killer leave much of the murders happening offscreen, there’s plenty to wince at. It’s a trilogy after all, even Maxine is up for grabs and close ups of her high heel slouchy boots tie sex in with the kills in ways echoing the film tying porn and horror to each other. Revisionist Hollywood history isn’t the only thing Tarantino seems to have inspired here; it’s also the crushed sex organs.

MAXXXine uses 80s grime and video store nostalgia to frame a glitzy tale of murder and the devil that sends our beloved lead and her metallic eyeshadow into her next crimson adventure. I, for one, welcome the return of the 80s. It might not be the next Barbenheimer, but MaXXXine could be a nice companion to Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

MaXXXine hits theaters July 5, 2024