MaXXXine is a lackluster end to Ti West's horror trilogy

Mia Goth in MaXXXine, Credit: Don Lens/A24
Mia Goth in MaXXXine, Credit: Don Lens/A24 /

Mia Goth and Ti West are an actor/director match made in heaven, and their collaboration on the X trilogy is commendable. Though I’ll admit that I’m not a staunch fan of X or Pearl, I applaud the pair for producing two beloved horror films in the same year. Both features were extremely well received by the horror community, and the release of MaXXXine kept fans eagerly waiting for the star’s impactful conclusion.

When I started seeing the trailer for MaXXXine, I felt that this might be the film in West’s franchise that would resonate with me the most. The previews of the movie were enticing, showcasing Maxine’s past slowly catching up to her in a mysterious, gripping crime thriller/horror drenched in 80s aesthetics. The film looked exciting and inviting, and I couldn’t wait for its release.

For the first forty minutes or so of MaXXXine, the film shows promise. A black-gloved individual— whose identity remains masked until later in the narrative—is introduced into the storyline and hires a private investigator (played by the talented Kevin Bacon) to follow Maxine. However, this unknown figure isn’t just anyone. The individual in question appears to know quite a bit about Maxine’s past and starts to threaten her dreams of becoming a star.

In the film’s present day, it is about six years after the events of X took place, and Maxine has just landed a role in a horror film named The Puritan II, directed by Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki). This is the big break Minx has been waiting for, and our leading lady refuses to let anyone get in her way and jeopardize her destiny.

While MaXXXine keeps the audience in the dark about the identity of the mysterious person chasing her, this is where the story shines. I was really intrigued to learn the identity of this unnamed antagonist and their link to our titular character. In fact, during my screening, I was on the edge of my seat whenever this gloved figure appeared in a scene. I had high hopes that West would stick the landing as he unraveled the killer’s motive while also giving more insight into Maxine’s character as her past resurfaced.

That said, MaXXXine seems much less focused on digging deeper into the character of Maxine and is more concerned with paying homage to numerous decades of films, showcasing the stylistic 80s era, and illustrating how cutthroat the entertainment industry can be.

While I praise the film for delving into the dark side of show business and demonstrating how Hollywood can chew people up and spit them out in an instant, the murder mystery storyline and Maxine’s rise to fame feel disjointed and don’t quite mesh. The horror elements also feel like an afterthought, aiming more for shock value and to tick a box as opposed to seamlessly fitting into the storyline.

The film also attempts to interject a plethora of other ideas—some without much rhyme or reason—resulting in a muddled narrative. MaXXXine jumps from one notion to the next, without any single plot point being explored enough, which leads to a lack of substance and fulfillment by the film’s close. Another drawback is the killer reveal, which leaves more to be desired. Not only is their motive questionable, but it’s presented to the audience in a bonkers-rushed third act as MaXXXine attempts to weave all of its ideas together with a messy bow.

Overall, what could have been a satisfying conclusion to West’s slasher trilogy is a film bogged down by too many themes and plot points that remain quite surface-level. Unfortunately, they don’t lead anywhere that interesting and are accompanied by an out-of-left-field cartoonish third-act killer reveal that completely tarnishes the feature.

For all the directions MaXXXine could have taken with such a compelling, fierce character at its core, and the unstoppable gifted Goth on board, it’s a shame that Maxine doesn't leave a lasting impact. In a nutshell, it fails to give the star the movie that she deserves and ultimately favors style over substance.

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