Cult CanoeMovies

MaXXXine (2024) | Review

Hold onto your VHS tapes, folks! Ti West’s MaXXXine has finally penetrated theaters, completing his unlikely hit trilogy. (For the record, I loved the first entry, X! Be kind and rewind to that one first if you haven’t seen MaXXXine, because there are some callbacks and flashbacks that may not make sense to newbies.)

This time, our plucky porn star Maxine Minx (played by the indomitable Mia Goth) is determined to go from adult film to AdultLand—that’s Tinseltown, baby! Set in the neon-drenched, drug-fueled 1985 Los Angeles, MaXXXine follows our ambitious heroine as she attempts to climax her career by transitioning from blue movies to the silver screen with a plum role in a demonic possession gorefest. But wouldn’t you know it, a pesky serial killer is on the loose, threatening to cut Maxine’s dreams short. Talk about a buzzkill.

West seems determined to check off every 1980s LA movie cliché faster than you can say “cocaine and shoulder pads.” From synth-heavy nightclub scenes to costumed extras marching across studio lots, it’s like he’s playing 80s Movie Bingo—and he’s going for a full house. The film takes us on a whirlwind tour of L.A. landmarks, from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (where careers go to die) to the Walk of Fame (where dreams go to get stepped on). It’s like a nostalgic postcard from a time when hair was big, plots were thin, and everyone was one audition away from stardom.

I must say, the soundtrack is a nostalgic wet dream, featuring more hits than you can shake a Rubik’s Cube at. We’re treated to a parade of 80s earworms that are more infectious than the VD floating around Maxine’s former profession. Animotion’s “Obsession” pulses through the speakers, perfectly capturing Maxine’s single-minded pursuit of fame. Frankie Goes to Hollywood welcomes us to their “Pleasuredome,” which is ironically more pleasant than most of Maxine questionable hangouts. And Kim Carnes croons “Bette Davis Eyes,” reminding us of a time when Hollywood icons were revered, not recycled into endless reboots. (What’s more, a great Bette Davis quote starts the film off.) These tracks serve as a retro lifeline, keeping our heads above water as we drown in the sea of hairspray that is MaXXXine. The costumes and hair are actually toned down from the real 1980s—apparently, West decided that some historical accuracy was too frightening even for a horror film. But don’t worry; there’s still enough pastel, denim, and leather to make you wonder if the wardrobe department raided a Miami Vice garage sale.

While Goth gives it her all as Maxine, her character feels about as deep as a kiddie pool (yes, there is a big, bloody pool scene in the film), which may be true to life for some in the acting profession, but this is a film in which we’d like to see some sort of arc. The supporting cast, however, gets to chew more scenery—Elizabeth Debicki plays a serious English auteur making “B movies with A ideas”—because nothing says “serious filmmaker” like slumming it in Hollywood with a slasher sequel, right? Giancarlo Esposito outacts his toupee with his usual panache. We’ve also got Halsey as the token sassy best friend, proving that even in the 80s, pop stars were trying to act. And I can’t forget Kevin Bacon as the sleazy, crooked PI—he crushes it!

Despite its promise of thrills and chills, MaXXXine is about as scary as a Cabbage Patch Kid (come to think of it, they were pretty creepy!). The murders are there, yes, but the sense of dread is nonexistent. There’s no terror, no white-knuckle moments (but there are some giallo-style black gloved hands, so that’s okay). In the end, it’s all tease and no please. It’s got more style than a fashion week runway, but, like, about as much substance as a Valley Girl’s vocabulary. The filmmakers may have been aiming for a grand finale, but this trilogy closer ends up being more of a premature evacuation.

So, if you’re in the mood for a film that’s more “meh” than “Maxine,” grab your leg warmers and head to the theater. Just don’t expect to be blown away (unless it’s by the sheer force of the characters’ hairstyles). MaXXXine proves that sometimes, the third time isn’t the charm—it’s just another reminder that some things are better left in the past, like mullets, shoulder pads, and sadly, this trilogy-topper. MaXXXine is basically a titillating climax that leaves you wanting… more.

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