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a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


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The De Palma Touch

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Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

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and the Infield
Fly Rule

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Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
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(Blow Out)

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Deborah Shelton
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De Palma a la Mod

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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Ambrose Chapel
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Monday, July 15, 2024

Sony announced today that it will release a limited edition 4K UHD SteelBook of Brian De Palma's Body Double on September 17th. Here are the details, as listed at High-Def Digest:

The 4K UHD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital SteelBook Combo Pack will include a Dolby Vision presentation and Dolby Atmos audio with the following specs and supplements:


  • Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
  • English Dolby Atmos + English 5.1 + English 2-Channel Surround


  • Feature presented in high definition, sourced from the 4K master
  • English 5.1 + English 2-Channel Surround
  • Special Features:
    • NEWLY ADDED: Archival EPK Interviews with Brian De Palma, Craig Wasson and Melanie Griffith
    • NEWLY ADDED: Frankie Goes to Hollywood "Relax" Music Video (BODY DOUBLE Version)
    • 4 Featurettes:
      • The Seduction
      • The Setup
      • The Mystery
      • The Controversy
    • Still Gallery
    • Theatrical Trailer


  • Produced and Directed By: Brian De Palma
  • Story By: Brian De Palma
  • Screenplay By: Robert J. Avrech and Brian De Palma
  • Cast: Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Melanie Griffith


  • Run Time: Approx. 114 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • 4K UHD Feature Picture: 2160p Ultra High Definition, 1.85:1
  • 4K UHD Feature Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible) | English 5.1 DTS-HD MA | English 2-Channel Surround DTS-HD MA

Posted by Geoff at 10:55 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 13, 2024

I saw a video clip yesterday promoting Olivia Rodrigo's world tour bus for merch items related to her latest album Guts, and thought I saw a VHS that looked similar to Scarface. I went back and stopped the frame and yes, that was what I saw, indeed. These seem to be props on the bus, not necessarily for sale (and likely(?) not anything much inside the sleeves), but an inspired idea (that is to say, good idea, right?). This has led to folks on reddit (where the above image was found) and elsewhere trying to figure out what each of the other movies might be. The one in front, "Bad Idea Right?", has been shown elsewhere to be very similar to one person's alternative VHS sleeve design for Call Me By Your Name, although both of these seem so familiar to something... else from the eighties that no one seems to have been able to figure out yet.

Posted by Geoff at 9:12 PM CDT
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Friday, July 12, 2024

Eleven days ago, Slant's Chuck Bowen posted a review of Coralie Fargeat's The Substance. Here's an excerpt:
Much of The Substance is framed in close-ups with wide-angle lenses, with sets bathed in lurid colors. Fargeat pays homage to a bathroom from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and the general vibe of her film suggests a meeting of Dr. Strangelove’s humor and the New French Extremity movement’s brutality. It’s an ultraviolent hothouse cartoon of avarice. Kubrick aged into a scold, but Fargeat can admit that the decadence she’s parodying and indulging turns her on. This is a feminist midnight-movie freak show, and Fargeat is willing to beat horny male filmmakers at their own game while spanking them for their misconduct. As she also illustrated in the equally unhinged Revenge, the thin line between critique and hypocrisy is her natural habitat.

The Substance rarely steps outside or ventures beyond three characters: Elizabeth, Harvey, and Sue (Margaret Qualley), a young upstart rival of an unusual nature. Borrowing a subtle device from David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Fargeat compresses a potentially epic premise down to a few locations and variables. Most of the narrative is set in Elizabeth’s apartment, the soundstage for the fitness show, and a few warehouses and studios. The film is insular and claustrophobic, placing us almost subliminally on Elizabeth’s harried wavelength.

Among the stylization and cheeky editorial dialogue, Moore’s naturalistic performance serves as a powerful counterpoint. There was a steely earnestness to her work in her ingenue days, an eagerness to prove herself that was appealing but tended to freeze her up. In The Substance, that steel is contextualized as a fading defense device. Moore achieves a casualness of being that often happens to beautiful stars who survive the game long enough to absorb said survival into their essence. The stakes are upped by the fact that Elizabeth is unavoidably a riff on Moore herself, who’s played her own version of the Hollywood commodification game.

Moore’s payday for going topless in Striptease in the 1990s was treated as a shot heard around the world by the press, and the film itself was revealed to be an embarrassingly self-conscious non-event. Moore is also frequently nude in The Substance, but the context is markedly different. We often see Elizabeth naked either in her large bathroom or in a chamber behind the bathroom that’s seen as a kind of cocoon. This is a place without endlessly scrutinizing eyes, one of refuge, and Fargeat films Moore tenderly. In these sequences, The Substance lets up on the flashy aesthetic and gross-out jokes, and Elizabeth is allowed to simply be a person, contemplating with considerable pain an inevitable shift into older age.

The humanity of Moore’s performance, the greatest of her career, gives Fargeat’s boldest ideas an emotional backbeat. This is a blend of body horror film and feminist satire that’s more than a tribute reel to the usual masters of the genre. When Elizabeth’s back splits open on the bathroom floor and Sue arises fully formed out of a viscous placental sac, we’re processing more than uniquely inventive special effects. We’re seeing a woman voluntarily efface herself, tagging in a newer model who can satisfy the carnal appetites of the Harveys of the world.

Via a kind of deus ex machina, Elizabeth learns of a black-market procedure that promises the regeneration of her cells, allowing her to be a better version of herself. The details of The Substance—how it’s obtained, injected, and maintained—are among Fargeat’s sharpest satirical flourishes. Think Lewis Carroll’s wild irrationality united with Philip K. Dick’s distrust of corporations as a parody of the self-improving snake oil that’s sold to people, with sexy and fashionably minimalist ad campaigns that are meant to suggest confidence and legitimacy.

Sue is supposed to be this better version of Elizabeth, though the faceless mastermind of The Substance has to remind them both that they’re one in the same woman, and that they need to work together. Elizabeth must regenerate while Sue is out in the world and vice versa, and they must switch places every seven days. Inevitably, this balance is ruptured, and a fight for dominance commences as Sue grows in power and prominence.

Fargeat films Qualley differently than Moore, as Sue reflects the populace’s fantasies of luscious rising celebrities as well as Elizabeth’s self-loathing. Qualley is lit and made up here to suggest the faint anonymity of Hollywood sexiness: Her face is softened and colored like cotton candy, her lips are accentuated, and she’s often in pink undies and butt-hugging workout gear.

Fargeat drinks in Qualley so rabidly that even Michael Bay might be driven to blush, staging objectifying scenes that are hot and funny and resonant. Qualley’s airbrushed-feeling sexiness here may startle people who are familiar with her eccentric and highly personable previous performances, and a portion of that audience may have to confront the fact that they like this sexbot version of Qualley despite their better instincts.

When Sue cracks open a Diet Coke, the glistening soda complimenting her moist lips, the charge of the image springs from the fact that the satire of commercial objectification can’t dispel the disreputable eroticism of the moment. When Sue takes over Elizabeth’s show, Fargeat springs an even wilder set piece, a workout number so robotically sexual that it suggests a Jazzercise session restaged as a lap dance from Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls. Fargeat’s premise allows her to mount a free-associational essay on men’s hunger for women as well as women’s simultaneous craving of that attention and resentment of it. That idea also drove Showgirls and its precedent, All About Eve, and as long as The Substance is mining this turf, it’s exhilarating.

The Substance is also an unwieldy movie-movie that desperately needs to come up for air at some point. To borrow a Cronenbergian metaphor, things keep growing out of this film, and Fargeat’s cinema fever is sometimes at odds with her powerful take on two women, sisters of sorts, who feel as if they need to destroy each other in order to matter.

In that vein, it makes sense to lean on Showgirls and Brian de Palma’s Carrie and Brian Yuzna’s Society and even Cronenberg’s The Fly, but the late-inning embrace of the imagery of Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream feels slapdash, momentarily knocking The Substance off its axis. But it’s impossible to deny that Fargeat’s film holds you even at its most frenzied, and it ends on an unforgettable image that circles back to the first, in which Elizabeth’s monstrous self-loathing is granted the reprieve of her biggest fear: obscurity.

And over at the New York Post yesterday, Johnny Oleksinski reviews Longlegs, the new film from Oz Perkins:
Perkins’ film is full of left-field surprises, made more unexpected by its blend of genres. Set in the morally dicey 1990s, it’s a bit rural police procedural, a la “Twin Peaks,” but its supernatural and religious elements add shades of Brian De Palma’s “Carrie.” As does Perkins’ artful shots.

Fear lurks under every ideally lit archway. And each detailed, stale room has the same foreboding of exploring your grandparents’ dusty old basement as a child.

And as Lee investigates these sinister places, [Maika] Monroe is excellent. Her Lee is troubled and off-putting, yet unsuspectingly funny, too. Phone calls with Lee’s slightly off mother Ruth (Alicia Witt) are layered. They don’t seem to like each other much, but she calls mom daily all the same.

Monroe has had an up-and-down career. I especially enjoyed her in 2019’s “Honey Boy,” although there have been quite a few more “Bling Ring”s on the resume. This focused and serious performance will mark a turning point in the actress’ career.

[Nicolas] Cage’s left turn into Crazytown happened a long time ago, and I’m loving the warped ride.

What’s so unsettling about his Longlegs is, as big and cartoonish as he is, the weirdo is just believable enough. You could run into him late at night at a highway rest stop or, God forbid, on an empty subway platform. Cage makes a meal out of the murderer.

During this so-so summer at the movies, something’s finally got legs.

De Palma mentioned in some reviews of The Substance

Posted by Geoff at 11:28 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 12, 2024 11:35 PM CDT
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Thursday, July 11, 2024

"This week," writes Chris Slusarenko, co-host of the podcast Revolutions Per Movie, "we talked to Grammy Nominated Visual Artist & Musician Perry Shall & Fangoria Magazine’s Editor In Chief Phil Nobile Jr about arguably their favorite film of all time, Phantom Of The Paradise!!! We discuss the film’s incredible songs and performance by Paul Williams, Brian DePalma’s homages and obsessions within the film, the ties (and lawsuit) associated with this film and Led Zeppelin, the 70s obsession with the 50s, our love for the character BEEF, our childhood discovery of this film, the iconic visual identity of the film, which came first Kiss or the movie, one fan’s obsession with restoring the film to its original state, bootlegging cable, the power of the indie video horror movie shelf, Jessica Harper’s iconic performance, the mask design of the Phantom and the Japanese Manga movement around it, slumber party watch parties, being scared of rock concerts and their potential violence, style vs substance, who is the mysterious billed ‘rock freak’ & how one lone city in the world has never stopped loving this film."

Meanwhile, at Fangoria, Phil Noble Jr. writes:

Until I get off my ass and start a podcast of my own, I’m happy any time I’m invited onto someone else’s. Being invited onto someone else’s podcast to talk Phantom of the Paradise? I’ll do that all day. It’s one of my favorite, most formative movies, and my love for it has, over the years, given back to me more than I can measure.

So I was very happy indeed to join Chris Slusarenko’s Revolutions Per Movie podcast (along with with visual artist and musician Perry Shall) to geek out for an hour and change over Brian De Palma’s 1974 film, which has in my lifetime gone from box office dud to secret handshake to out-of-print cult favorite to beloved classic of the canon.

Chris and Perry share my love for the film, so if you wanna hear people argue, this isn’t for you. But if you wanna hear three dudes unabashedly love on a once-forgotten glam rock musical horror epic, head here (or wherever you get your podcasts) to get an earful of it!

Posted by Geoff at 11:31 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, July 11, 2024 11:34 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Posted by Geoff at 9:53 PM CDT
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Thursday, July 4, 2024

At Washington CityPaper, Noah Gittell's "Retro Review," headlined, "Brian De Palma’s Blow Out Watches You Watch," carries the subheadline, "The 1981 film, screening at Alamo on July 3, dresses up as a political thriller but it’s actually questioning America’s voyeuristic tendencies." Here's the concluding portion:
If there’s an animating force behind Blow Out, it’s De Palma’s love of filmmaking. His fondness for split diopter shots—when two objects at disparate distances are seen in focus at once—serves him well here, making the viewer’s eyes dart back and forth to grasp the juxtaposition, replicating the inner workings of Jack’s mind. De Palma’s use of pink and red lighting lends the proceedings a lurid overtone, while the pounding score by Pino Donaggio accentuates the filmmaker’s maximalist style.

More importantly, De Palma is mostly here to watch Jack piece together the mystery by using the building blocks of filmmaking. The newspaper obtains video of the accident, and Jack cuts out the photos, putting together a crude flipbook. It’s almost as if he is creating cinema all over again. De Palma lingers on these scenes, his camera seduced by Travolta’s dexterous fingers and his famously determined chin. This sequence—and the film as a whole—is a loose remake of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 classic Blow-Up about a fashion photographer who scrutinizes his own photographs to solve the mystery of a missing woman. But De Palma is more upfront about his voyeuristic tendencies. We can feel his yearning in the painstaking detail with which he shoots these scenes, but his passion extends beyond mere affection. The scenes of Travolta mastering the editing equipment, splicing together sound and film, are as sensual as any of the director’s famous sex scenes.

Blow Out is a strange, perverse film, and unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a hit when it was released in 1981. Made for $18 million (a lot at the time), Blow Out flopped upon its initial release and was only reclaimed by the next generation of cinephiles. Quentin Tarantino praises it to the heavens, and it’s easy to see how De Palma’s brash, lurid style was a clear influence on the young director, who, somewhat less elegantly, also challenges viewers with their voyeurism and implicates them in his on-screen violence. In that way, Blow Out does have something to say about the country that produced it, a place where we consistently pretend to care about the victims but we really can’t tear our eyes away from the screen.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Posted by Geoff at 2:50 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 3, 2024
TOM CRUISE AS ETHAN HUNT - "...You're in Prague??" - "ONE HOUR!"

Posted by Geoff at 10:46 PM CDT
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Tuesday, July 2, 2024

David Koepp: Once the movie [Mission: Impossible] got up and running, or once Paramount greenlit it, Tom [Cruise] got rather anxious, and wanted to bring [Robert] Towne in to work on it. And then Towne came in, and Brian didn't want-- [Koepp throws his hands in the air] yeah, there was a lot of fighting. And then Towne came in and threw all the pages up in the air. And things stayed quite chaotic. And then three weeks before shooting, they said, "Will you come back... you know, try and put it all back together. But Bob's going to keep working, and you're going to keep working, and we'll just figure out what we shoot." I was like, "Okay... this oughta be interesting."

Posted by Geoff at 10:12 PM CDT
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Sunday, June 30, 2024
LOLITA DAVIDOVICH AS JENNY - "Yes, can you tell him that Jenny O'Keefe called, and that I have his keys..."

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 27, 2024

Kim Newman, EMPIRE
In Ti West’s 1979-set slasher movie X, Mia Goth played would-be porn star Maxine and elderly killer Pearl. Spinning the film out into a triptych rather than a trilogy, the 1919-set Pearl was about the younger days of the murderess, while MaXXXine is set in 1985 and catches up with what the final girl of the Texas Porn Star Massacre did next in her life. Eventual binge-watchers will notice the way elements recur with variations across all three movies — something Maxine does at the climax mirrors what Pearl did in her film.

In a moment of metatextuality which functions also as a scare scene, Maxine has her head coated with goo as a make-up artist makes an impression to be used to create a severed-head prop for a dream sequence. She is transformed by dripping white gunk into the ghost image of old Pearl, who actually told her she would end up looking like her. The fact that Mia Goth must have been through this process in real life to create the make-up mask which transformed her into Pearl in X adds a further layer to a film which is in some danger of becoming too clever by half, but consistently pulls back to deliver a cinematic coup or reveal another facet of determined protagonist Maxine. Goth’s not-exactly-admirable survivor-type is always centre-screen.

X was a homage to the grainy, gritty, sunstruck look shared by 1970s porn of the Deep Throat variety and the down-home horror-movies often made by the same film students at a different step in their careers. Pearl was a sumptuous candy-Technicolor recreation of the style of classic Hollywood melodramas, musicals and small-town nostalgia movies, with a lush, sweeping old orchestral score. It’s a risk to make a series where every instalment looks and sounds different, but West has been a master of evoking bygone styles since his homage to 1970s TV movies, The House Of The Devil.

In Maxxxine, the series moves away from the made-in-New Zealand Texas farmhouse with adjacent alligator lake of the first two pictures into a 1980s Hollywood which is at once scuzzy and vibrant. With perfect needle drops — Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’, Kim Carnes’ ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ — and an array of authentic costumes and hairdos, this inhabits video-rental space with Abel Ferrara’s Fear City, Brian De Palma’s Body Double, William Friedkin’s To Live And Die In L.A. — not to mention a whole lot of non-auteurist exploitation pictures like the teenage-hooker classic Angel trilogy, the cult-of-killers cop flick Cobra and the extraordinary mad-movie-buff film Fade To Black. MaXXXine revisits the Hollywood locations of some of these VHS gems and is packed with film Easter eggs: an early alleyway threat comes from a stalker dressed as Buster Keaton, and a key backlot chase scene has Mia Goth chased by Kevin Bacon through the Bates Mansion created for Psycho II.

X and Pearl both take their time getting to the very gory horrors — that house façade isn’t the first reference to crime story-turned-gothic Psycho in the series. MaXXXine is more upfront and ’80s about things, with a simmering air of menace and regular atrocities as Maxine sticks to her plan of getting out of adult movies into mainstream cinema, despite bodies dropping all around and a sinister figure out to coerce her into appearing in yet another type of film with an even more twisted agenda.

Alison Willmore, Vulture
Where X riffed on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Pearl was inspired by Sirkian Technicolor, MaXXXine owes a debt to Body Double, which was also set in the blurry borderlands between disreputable B-movies and adult film. As touchpoints go, it’s a pretty good one. Like Brian De Palma’s tawdry-gorgeous thriller, MaXXXine takes place in a city where seediness and luxury coexist, and where a mansion in the Hollywood Hills is just a quick ride away from the peep show where Maxine works when she isn’t shooting porn. The trick isn’t accessing those elite spaces — the women Maxine meets, played by the likes of Halsey and Lily Collins, are always headed off to parties in the hills — but proving you belong there as more than just a party favor for powerful guests. The first time we see Goth in the film, she’s a silhouette strutting through the massive doors of a soundstage: a literal gate, behind which are sitting the metaphorical gatekeepers for whom she’s about to try out.

One of them is Elizabeth Bender (an iceberg-lettuce-crisp Elizabeth Debicki), the director of the first Puritan, whose declarations about wanting to make a sequel that’s a “B movie with A ideas” are clearly meant to be self-referential, as well as self-deprecating. But that’s the irritating thing about West’s project — it’s not a compliment to say that it’s easy to imagine the three films being projected simultaneously on opposing walls of a museum display, because they feel more like an installation to be sampled than stories that need to be experienced one after another. West knows how to move a camera and light a scene, to be sure. When the lens glides from Maxine’s shitty apartment building to follow the departure of her best friend, Leon (Moses Sumney), on a skateboard, and then across the street to the figure staking her out in a car across the street, the sheer artfulness of the shot is its own satisfaction. But MaXXXine, like X and like Pearl, is more focused on being in conversation with the horror genre than it is on its audience. When the film arrives at the conclusion that being a star requires a helping of psychopathy, it’s Goth who’s able to make that feel like something other than a glib punchline.

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
X paid tribute to horror films of the 1970s, while the 1910s-set Pearl slyly referenced live-action Disney pictures, but MaXXXine is not as entertaining an homage to its cinematic influences. Cinematographer Eliot Rockett and production designer Jason Kisvarday provide West with an appropriately seedy and sun-soaked L.A., but the film fails to cleverly embody 1980s’ cinematic hallmarks, its Brian De Palma allusions fairly obvious. Still, those who enjoy period hits from ZZ Top and Kim Carnes will be happy to hear them blasting on the soundtrack.

West seems more invested in the political forces at work during the era, noting the rise of religious conservatism in America which led to the entertainment industry being accused of promoting godlessness, even Satanism. No surprise, then, that the name of the film that will be Maxine’s big break is willfully blasphemous — and that the mysterious killer brands his victims with a pentagram, the mark of the devil. Incorporating archive clips of Ronald Reagan, MaXXXine seeks to spotlight a period in which horror stood in defiance of the Moral Majority, a reactionary movement that sought to demonise art it found abhorrent.

Unfortunately, that commentary is never especially insightful and, likewise, West has little success critiquing Hollywood (both the city and the industry) as a place that lures in aspiring performers only to exploit them. Maxine encounters cliched characters wherever she turns and, while some are meant to be parodies of specific types — such as Bacon’s no-good New Orleans detective — neither the script nor the performances contain enough wit to make the satire stick. Debicki plays a blandly intimidating film director, while Monaghan and Cannavale are one-note cops in search of the killer. (The meagre running joke about Cannavale’s character is that he wanted to be an actor, delivering every line with extra gravitas as a way to hold onto his thwarted aspirations.) Even worse, the film’s expected gross-out violence is subpar, rarely offering the liberating rebuke to the era’s uptight handwringing.

Damon Wise, Deadline
And now a public service announcement for the genre-savvy: know upfront that the trailer is something of a bum steer; Brian De Palma’s twisty erotic thrillers simply inform the mood, and you won’t get very far trying to guess who the teasingly little-seen killer is simply from their androgynous black get-up. In the same way, it’s really not an homage to Italian giallo; with the exception of one very bloody set-piece, this isn’t a murder-mystery in the usual sense.

In fact, the reveal is really quite disappointing after the hell-for-leather lead-up of X and Pearl, both of which freely experimented with storytelling techniques and film grammar to sell the sizzle as well as the steak. Surprisingly, despite an obvious nod to the Mitchell brothers’ 1972 porno-chic breakout Behind the Green Door, West is very traditional this time round, literally romping through the Universal studio lot in a journey that will take Maxine to the Psycho house and, well… is that really the Back to the Future town square set?

These incremental moments build up, because — and this may be complete conjecture — West doesn’t seem to be that interested in wrapping up his trilogy with yet another pastiche horror movie. Sometimes clumsily but more often not, MaXXXine has things to say about the objectification and humiliation of women in Hollywood, as actors and directors, and, alongside that, the belittling of horror as a genre too. As the figurehead for this, Debicki is a little on the nose with her delivery, demanding perfection while not exactly exuding passion, but it’s hard not to see where she’s coming from when she gives Maxine an on-set pep talk, insisting, “We’ll prove them all wrong together in a beautiful f*cking bloodbath.”

Christina Newland, i News
Tinseltown, 1985. Maxine Minx is a porn star who wants to be a legit movie actor, but this is a horror movie by the schlocky Ti West, so you ought to adjust your expectations accordingly. West – swapping mediums and using scratchy VHS to match the film’s period, as well as splashy cuts and Brian De Palma split-screens – leans heavily into the 80s setting. As an opening montage informs us, this is the era of the video nasty, evangelical boycotts of pornography, and a serial killer known as the Night Stalker haunting the streets of the city: Maxine (Mia Goth) is in a pressure cooker.

MaXXXine is the splashy third instalment in Ti West’s loose trilogy of self-conscious period-set horror flicks, following on from his slasher movies X and Pearl. It’s also the weakest of the three. Each film shares a lead actress – the alien-eyed, strange, baby-voiced powerhouse that is Mia Goth – and themes around stardom, sex, fame, violence, and the act of filmmaking. Each are glossy pastiches of movie history, which makes them both great fun and not particularly deep.

Here, Maxine is a self-invented star of the early home video porno craze, working out of Los Angeles after discarding a traumatic past back in the heartland. (We soon realise she is the previous protagonist of X, who was the sole survivor of a homicidal rampage).

Owen Glieberman, Variety
“X,” the first movie in Ti West’s grungy but elevated artisanal-trash horror franchise (it’s been billed as a trilogy but may yet produce further installments), was an unusually effective stab at recreating the ’70s farmhouse-turned-charnel-house vibe of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” spiced with the fleshpot voyeurism of ’70s porn. For a retro slasher movie, it was a novelty and a curio. The insane killer was an old farm wife suffering from erotic frustration — played, under a ton of make-up, by Mia Goth, the same actress who played one of the film’s porn performers. The movie was leagues better than your average “Chain Saw” knockoff, yet it never quite transcended the slasher formula. It was a psycho thriller crafted with a fanboy filmmaker’s encyclopedic rigor.

But “Pearl,” a prequel that West shot directly after “X” (it was released just six months later in 2022), took a startling leap. It told the backstory of that ancient farm lady — who, in “Pearl,” was now an apple-cheeked lass living on her family’s Texas homestead in 1918, obsessed with becoming a star in the racy new world of motion pictures.

Goth played her once again, only this time the character was vibrant and driven, alive with aspiration — and the movie took us inside all that to the point that when she starts to kill people, you have the rare sensation of empathy for a demented slasher. Goth had a seven-minute confessional monologue in “Pearl” that was like something delivered by Liv Ullmann. And yet, wielding a pitchfork as a murder weapon, she was also terrifying. The movie was about madness, about the dawn of feminism, about “Carrie” and “The Wizard of Oz,” about the bloody horror of dreams denied. And Mia Goth proved that she’s a wonder of an actress. “Pearl” was a quantum leap over “X,” and it made you think: If this is Part 2, what does Ti West have up his sleeve for the third installment?

That movie, which opens July 3, is called “Maxxxine,” it’s set in 1985, and it’s named for the character Goth played in “X,” who is now a noted adult-film actress, Maxine Minx, in the halfway corporatized straight-to-video world of Los Angeles skin flicks. Maxine, like Pearl, longs to be a star. Early on, she auditions for a role in a horror movie called “The Puritan II,” which looks like “The Crucible” redone as a grade-Z blood feast. For her, though, it would be more than a step up. It would be a step toward legitimacy and maybe stardom. Porn stars, at the time, had little to no chance of breaking into mainstream movies, an idea that was at least flirted with when Brian De Palma considered casting the triple-X superstar Annette Haven in “Body Double” (the studio said: over our dead stock portfolio). But in “Maxxxine,” the title character’s yearning to cross over endows her with an underdog fervor.

The way the film presents it, it’s Maxine’s hunger for stardom, her hellbent wish to lift herself out of the trough of the sex industry, that sets her apart. That and her inner fire. And inner fire, as we know from “Pearl,” is something that Mia Goth can really bring. She plays Maxine with a come-hither aggression that’s direct and compelling enough to let us wonder if Maxine could be hardcore porn’s hidden answer to Vivien Leigh.

When a filmmaker recreates an old genre, to the point that it’s obvious he has steeped himself in it, it’s generally a sign that he’s aiming high, trying to make “cinema.” That’s certainly true of Ti West. In his up-from-low-budget-gone-A24 way, he’s as obsessed with old movies as Quentin Tarantino; he riffs on them as a fetishistic act of cult homage. But just as Tarantino can draw on the lowest of grindhouse muck, West, in “Maxxxine,” applies his genre-movie scholasticism to a form that seems, on the face of it, to be the definition of disreputable: the ’80s sexploitation thriller — the kind of badly lit product, featuring women in heavy-metal lingerie and psycho stalkers who are like leering stand-ins for the men in the audience, that no one ever pretended was any good. De Palma drew on some of these films too, but “Maxxxine” is less contempo De Palma than a knowing nod to the movies you used to see stacked up in VHS bargain bins in convenience stores.

Alistair Ryder, The Film Stage
These overlapping cases begin intruding on Maxine’s career, and beneath her defiant persona, the horrors of the past are never too far from her mind. And to show this, with his tongue very firmly in cheek, West depicts Maxine on a tour of the Universal lot, outside the Bates Motel, imagining that she’s seeing the ghost of Pearl in the windows of the looming house above, where another cinematic killing spree took place. If directly invoking Psycho will further embolden the horror auteurists who have begun to view West as a hack who adds nothing to his myriad influences, then directly drawing narrative parallels between it and X––which should be uncontroversial on paper, considering the well-trod slasher template Hitchcock forged––will turn them apoplectic. It’s not even the only time a set piece takes us to the Bates Motel, and if such shameless Hitchcock pastiche feels designed to get his biggest critics labeling him a poor man’s Brian De Palma, well, West is self-aware enough to be on the defensive before a single blow has been struck. Why else would there be a Frankie Goes to Hollywood-scored nightclub scene if not to tip the hat to Body Double?

Shakyl Lambert, CGM Backlot Magazine
Before the film starts, there’s a quote from legendary actress Bette Davis: “Until you’re known in my profession as a monster, you’re not a star.” Funnily enough, that quote clues into why the movie didn’t work much for me. To West’s credit, like his previous two films, MaXXXine displays his knowledge of the aesthetics that each film inhabits, in this case, the 80s slashers and Giallo films. In particular, MaXXXine plays very similar to Brian De Palma’s 1984 erotic thriller Body Double.

That film was one that De Palma made in response to the criticism he was receiving for his other erotic thrillers at the time, and he intentionally went all out with sexuality and violence. It seems like in making a movie that wants to be as sleazy as those thrillers; you need elements of sleaziness in your real-life personality. West doesn’t have that, and as a result, MaXXXine feels way too sanitized and glossy to stand alongside those thrillers.

Matt Donato, Daily Dead
West’s Los Angeles “sleaze noir’ is a seedy haven for murder, treachery, and broken dreams. At first glance, it’s giving Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, and Nicolas Winding Refn; Los Angeles is burning behind VHS static that recreates the experience of watching outdated tubular televisions. An unnamed criminal with squeaky black leather gloves slices victims open in West’s horror-forward scenes, while procedural true crime inspirations — Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale play persistent detectives — chase a dangerous whodunit. It’s West doing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by way of Deep Red, but also daffily unserious at parts, which can become a tonal mishmash.

Maxxxine is pulled in too many thematic directions, trying to wrap a young starlet’s evolution from zero to hero, while also encapsulating 1980s Los Angeles’ lawless Wild West period. There are details that remain vivid, like Maxine evading John by sprinting into the backlot Psycho house, or pentacles seared into dead flesh — but also an overall glitzy shallowness. Giallo notes are muted, horror fierceness takes a backseat, and the dopey B-movie sheen that promotes illicit entertainment reads like caricature exaggerations. Where X had me on the edge of my seat, enraptured by tension, Maxxxine struggles with momentum. West never quite delivers a soup-to-nuts slasher, or fulfilling Night Stalker caper, lost in Maxine’s ascension to a detriment.

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
West has set his film in 1985, when another (real-life) killer, known as the Night Stalker, was terrorising LA – and there is something of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in its bleary mingling of fiction and fact. The photography by longtime West collaborator Eliot Rockett evokes the era with vivid ease: his hot colours and grimy surfaces leave a residue, but one you don’t necessarily want to wash off.

The style is impeccable. The substance, not so much. Perhaps after Pearl, MaXXXine is simply a victim of heightened expectations, but it has little of its predecessor’s mischief or steely psychological brinksmanship. Instead, we get a jumble sale’s worth of homages and an odd and eventually derivative stop-start storyline, in which you often feel as if you’re watching Goth literally walk from one subplot to the next.

The references are enormous fun: we get Psycho’s Bates Motel as an unlikely refuge, Kevin Bacon as a scummy private eye with a Chinatown nose plaster, and lashings of Brian De Palma’s Body Double and Paul Schrader’s Hardcore. West clearly adores these films, and in an ideal world, MaXXXine would have joined them in the canon. In the event, though, it’s content to lust after them from the confines of the peep show booth, nose pressed up against the grubby glass.

Posted by Geoff at 11:12 PM CDT
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