Pearl (Ti West, 2022, USA/Canada)

Pearl is the latest directorial effort from horror auteur Ti West. Positioned as a prequel to West's 2022 70s-set slasher film X, Pearl was shot simultaneously with that film - using many of the same sets in New Zealand. While we at Cinephilic Musings haven't yet seen X, we went to view Pearl on the recommendation of Martin Scorsese, who praised the film. It is probably best to go into Pearl with as few expectations as possible. While it is ostensibly a horror film, in many ways it is sui generis.

While set during the 1918 flu pandemic in the rural United States, the film's artistic palette reflects American Technicolor cinema of the 1940s and 1950s, complete with a lush orchestral and various techniques from the period, including old-fashioned title cards. The film tells the story of Pearl, a young woman living with her German immigrant parents on a farm. Her mother is abusive and religious, while her father has been rendered disabled and non-verbal by some unnamed affliction. She dreams of a life beyond the farm, which seems to come with auditions for a local dance troupe, as well as from a mysterious "bohemian" projectionist at a local cinema.

Pearl rests almost entirely on Mia Goth's performance, as the general trajectory of the film is clear from the outset. What makes the film interesting is how the character of Pearl unwinds, and the surprises along the way. There is something Hitchcockian about the film, and there are clear parallels with Psycho. The film is worth watching or Goth's performance alone, as there is a monologue toward the end of the film which is truly on another level. Pearl is a solid elevated horror film that may please sophisticated arthouse audiences more than it pleases gorehounds and slasher fanatics. 



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