MAXXXINE Review: Ti West's X Trilogy Comes To An Entertaining But Overstuffed End

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MAXXXINE Review: Ti West's X Trilogy Comes To An Entertaining But Overstuffed End

Writer/director Ti West closes out an ambitious trilogy of horror films with the Hollywood-set glam pastiche, MaXXXine. The final chapter in the series headlined by the marvelous Mia Goth, MaXXXine finds heroine Maxine Minx following her dreams of fame to Hollywood Boulevard. This time around, West has built a bigger film, with plenty of star power and grander ambitions than the first two chapters. While it’s all very pretty to look at, MaXXXine adds very little to the prestige of the series, leaving us with a perfectly fine, if overstuffed, horror film.

A direct follow-up to West’s rural slasher homage, X, MaXXXine is the continuing story of smalltown girl MaXXXine Minx as she steps into the Hollywood limelight. Eager to graduate from adult films to mainstream stardom, Minx has finally landed a role in a straight horror film, but – as seems to be her inevitable destiny – death seems determined to get in the way of her success, and she’s not having it.

During the summer of 1985, as the Night Stalker has struck terror into the heart of every Southern Californian, a new crop of victims starts to turn up all around Maxine. There are hints of satanic ritual to these murders, and they all have one thing in common, Maxine was the last to see any of them alive. She remains steadfast in her pursuit of stardom in spite of the increasingly hostile atmosphere that is growing around her, but before too long she realizes that if she doesn’t get proactive, she could be next, and while she could certainly be famous after being dead, there’s no way to enjoy it.

West pulls out all the stops in MaXXXine, moving from the very contained, small cast, minimal location projects of X and Pearl, to a big, glitzy, exploitation romp with plenty of big-name talent to put on the posters. And while those upgrades definitely add to the production value we get on screen, it also complicates the execution of the film in ways that directly contrast with the successful simplicity of the earlier films.

While each of the previous films were some version of a classic slasher, MaXXXine has grander designs. Moving from the series’ slasher roots, to straight-forward early ‘80s exploitation, to ‘70s giallo, to not-quite effective satanic panic thriller, MaXXXine seems to be juggling too many balls to keep them all aloft at once. The result is a confused film that only seems to come together when Goth is onscreen – which is admittedly a lot – but loses momentum as is careens from subgenre to subgenre haphazardly.

It's clear that West knows a lot about the films that he uses as inspiration, the problem is that he’s trying to pay homage to too many of them all at once while simultaneously not trusting the audience to make the connections themselves. Too much is spoonfed, on the nose, wasting the film’s ability to focus in favor of look-at-me nods to films like Blood and Black Lace, Behind the Green Door, Hardcore, Psycho, and many others. The references are fine on their own, but the way they are shoehorned in feels very try-hard.

Thankfully the addition of several key cast to the world of Maxine Minx brings enough levity and scenery chewing to the project that the overall experience is less of a slog than it could be. Big names like Kevin Bacon as a sleazy private dick, Giancarlo Esposito as Minx’s take-no-prisoners agents, Bobby Cannavale as a wannabe actor with a badge, and Elizabeth Debicki as the auteur in charge of Maxine’s Hollywood debut all bring something fantastic to the table. Bacon in particular appears to enjoy greasing up the place with an enjoyably hammy bayou charm that turns deadly as the film wears on.

One of the film’s major strengths is in the major bump in production value that comes with shooting on Hollywood backlots. The ability to utilize not only those studio lots, but to recreate the grimy Hollywood Boulevard of the past does a lot of the heavy lifting in a film where the setting is so important. If MaXXXine had screwed up the feel of 1985 Los Angeles, nothing else would’ve mattered, but thankfully it all looks great. Not only the settings, but the practical effects that have been such a part of the trilogy’s success are also present and accounted for with plenty of gooey gore gags to satisfy those of us who enjoy the splatter.

On the whole, MaXXXine is a decent enough horror film and a solid close to the saga of Maxine Minx (though West has hinted that there may be further adventures in the future), it just lacks the clear and direct vision of its predecessors. After X and Pearl, West certainly could’ve taken the series in any number of directions, the main issue here is that he came to a fork in the road and decided to take every path, rather than deciding on one. MaXXXine, while the weakest of the series, is still fun enough, and there’s plenty to enjoy, even when it doesn’t quite know what to do with itself.


  • Ti West
  • Ti West
  • Mia Goth
  • Elizabeth Debicki
  • Moses Sumney
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Ti WestMia GothElizabeth DebickiMoses SumneyCrimeHorror

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