“Pearl” Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Meets Wizard of Oz

Mia Goth reprises her role in this year’s most iconic horror franchise.

Photo Courtesy / YouTube A24

The “final girl” trope has taken over the horror film genre for decades. Films have been in a vicious cycle that sees the most “pure” woman survive the antagonist — but Ti West’s “Pearl” and “X” have given power back to female horror leads. 

“Pearl” is an out of the box film, being produced in secret after its sequel “X.” The script is the love child of West and Mia Goth, being written on the set of “X” after realizing they have the set for a while longer than planned. It was announced West was already editing and finishing up the film the same month “X” was released. 

Viewers follow the origin story of the main character, Pearl, as she fights with unusual desires, her family and herself. Living during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic on an isolated Texas farm, her obsession for fame becomes violent.

Released March 18, “X” took the slasher formula and the “final girl” trope and completely subverted expectations. The story follows a 1970s adult film production team as they travel to a Texas farmhouse to shoot their next video. Things quickly unravel as the actors begin to fight for their life against the owners of the farm, Pearl and Howard. 

The audience gets a small glance of Pearl’s character as she rivals the main actress of the adult film, Maxine Minx (both played by Goth). They struggle with their delusion of destiny for fame and need for love and attention. 

For viewers that enjoyed “X,” note that “Pearl” is not an exact sister film. While “X” sticks much closer to the slasher genre using blood and sex to make the audience uncomfortable, Pearl is much more of a character study using psychology to make viewers squirm. 

“Pearl” was released just six months after “X” on Sept. 16. It earned $3.1 million domestically and blew up on TikTok, as reported by IMDB. The film doesn’t shy away from the main character’s brutal, unbridled and uncomfortable rage caused by repressed sexuality. The audience watches a woman unravel, starting the movie off as a simple performer wishing for fame and longs to escape farm life but she starts spiraling quickly, killing farm animals and having intimate relations with a scarecrow. 

Goth’s incredible performances as Maxine in “X” and Harriet in “Emma” (2020) raised audience expectations prior to the film. The cinematography is beautifully stylized and is a perfect homage to films of the 1910s with the soundtrack and effects used. It’s a tense and blood-pumping film, often showing less than more. Although laced with gore, some scenes completely ignore the murderous acts committed, somehow causing more fear in viewers. With long monologues without cuts, this film makes you hold your breath.

Tandi Wright, playing Pearl’s mother Ruth, commanded the screen. Both actors portray an intense jarring relationship between mother and daughter.

The year 2022 has been an exciting year for horror fans with films like “Nope,” “Barbarian,” and “Don’t Worry Darling” released. Director and writer Ti West has been a big name this year, filming and releasing these two slasher films back to back, with a third on the way.

A24 has yet to disappoint, especially in the horror category. The company has seen hits with Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” and “Hereditary,” accompanied by this year’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and “Men.” A24 focuses on the unsettling aspect of horror, which resonates highly with viewers. 

It seems that this franchise is just the beginning of Mia Goth’s career, who could acquire her first Oscar nomination with this role. Although not the scariest horror film, “Pearl” undoubtedly has what it takes to become a cult classic.