Movie Review: Pearl (2022)

Pearl movie by A24
Now on demand.

When making this year’s ‘70s set horror film X, director Ti West also filmed a secret WWI era prequel, Pearl: An X-traordinary Origin Story (B-), and it’s the eerie crackup tale of the titular killer set amidst a corn pone maze of vintage Technicolor trappings. The handsome Hollywood production design on an isolated farm and an old-fashioned nearby town blended with Grand Guignol grotesquerie is consistently fascinating to watch even though the total package feels a bit obligatory. Mia Goth is brilliant in the central role, showcasing mania simmering slightly below and very highly above the surface in a series of escalating, campy and terrifying sequences. You truly can’t take your eyes off her. Tandi Wright is delightfully icy as her controlling mom; there are definitely Carrie vibes here. West’s stylized hues and horrors are largely a wonder to behold, although the color tones get more consistent attention than the themes and story beats. Some prescient subplots involving the Spanish Flu pandemic and an adjacent alligator are given short shrift, and one curious theatrical monologue doesn’t quite stick the cinematic landing. The film’s crafts including its score are roundly impressive, making the movie a triumph of style over substance. This is a slasher flick for the indie film set; but when you strip away the sparkling artifice, it’s sometimes not quite as special as its glamorous aspirations might imagine.

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