Thriller-Horror ‘MaXXXine’ is a Successful Conclusion to Director Ti West’s Trilogy

Synopsis: In 1980s Hollywood, adult film star and aspiring actress Maxine Minx finally gets her big break. But as a mysterious killer stalks the starlets of Hollywood, a trail of blood threatens to reveal her sinister past.
Director: Ti West
Stars: Mia Goth, Elizabeth Debicki, Giancarlo Esposito, Kevin Bacon, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Monaghan

There are the well known sequels, like those for the Hangover series, Dune, or the recently released Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Then, there are films that are less obvious sequels.

In 2022, director Ti West brought us the slasher film X, about a group of people attempting to make an adult movie in rural Texas on a farm. Later that same year, he released Pearl, an origin story of sorts of one of the characters from X. With MaXXXine, West closes the loop on this series of psychological horror/thriller films.

To fully appreciate MaXXXine, it is advisable to watch the previous two films, though not essential.

Maxine Minx is an adult film star looking to crossover into mainstream movies as she feels she has peaked in the adult industry. Director Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki) is sceptical about casting her, but after an audition, she is impressed with what she sees.

It’s the 1980s in Los Angeles, and Maxine is on her way to becoming a star. She has the self-confidence of ten people, and nothing is going to stop her. Coming out of the audition, Maxine announces to the line of women waiting for a chance to achieve their dreams, “You can all go home because I just f’ng nailed that.”

It’s refreshing to be transported to the pre-social media world where ‘duck face’ selfies aren’t a thing. Maxine is obsessed with the work. Nailing her lines and impressing are what’s most important to her. She is going to be famous. Stealing from real-life events that plagued Los Angeles at this time, a killer known as The Night Stalker is terrorising the city. It is clever of West to blend this into the film.

People are staying in at night or travelling in groups, but Maxine won’t be frightened. She knows how to handle herself. The audience learns this early in the film when someone tries to attack her while walking home. Maxine is not to be trifled with, and she proves this very violently.

Maxine’s past comes back to haunt her when a VHS tape (from the mid-80s) shows up on her doorstep. It’s evidence that threatens to disrupt the new life she’s trying to build. She is also being followed by a sleazy private detective, John Labat (Kevin Bacon), who has been hired by someone to track down Maxine. To top it all off, Maxine learns people close to her are being murdered. Could this be the Night Stalker?

A lot is going on in this film, but West manages it all very effectively. His three-movie arc is well thought out and executed. The biggest asset to this series is Mia Goth, who is a presence on screen. Her uniqueness is undeniable across the three films of this series and in Infinity Pool, which she starred in between the release of Pearl and MaXXXine. Goth portrays Maxine as a strong woman who doesn’t need ‘to be saved’. In a parallel universe, if her character landed in a film like The Strangers (2008), she would have those masked intruders running into the woods.

She’s the antihero and a protagonist who embodies the antithesis of what we usually see in most female characters from that time. She isn’t answering to anyone; she knows how to survive and, mostly, how to handle herself. The level of trust on display between West and Goth mirrors the iconic partnership of Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman. The two work extremely well together.

MaXXXine reminds the world that Los Angeles is where many people come to fulfil their dreams. While it isn’t painted with the same brush as a film like La La Land, it shows another aspect of what people will do to become famous.

In addition to Goth’s standout performance, the supporting cast is impressive. Elizabeth Debicki is great as the director who pushes Maxine—anytime Debicki is on the script, you know she will be wonderful. The casting of Kevin Bacon, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Monaghan and Lilly Collins is a testament to the success of the first two movies. Giancarlo Esposito is also a standout as Maxine’s lawyer/agent. He will do whatever he has to to help and assist his client.

West has a clear appreciation for film and has dedicated the last few years to seeing this vision through. He needs to be applauded. The series he created is a throwback to film but it also puts his love of the art form on a pedestal. At times, it feels like an 80’s slasher film and enough Easter eggs are embedded in the film to touch the cap of the genre. This isn’t accidental. West shows a strong affection for the film industry without being as in-your-face as director Damien Chazelle.

I don’t anticipate Maxine dolls flying off the shelves during the holidays, but she stands out as a great cinematic character. Mia Goth captains the ship very well, and West successfully lands the plane, a feat many fail to achieve at the conclusion of a trilogy.

The last film of this series is strong and very entertaining.

Grade: B+

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