I wasn’t in the mood for a quirky indie horror movie but Pearl is just such a perverted masterpiece that I fell in love with it immediately. This is a prequel to one of the most refreshing horror movies of 2021 X, showing us what Pearl was up to when she was younger. Driven by Mia Goth’s incredible performance it’s a vibrant and oddly compelling movie drenched in nostalgia. I mean, the opening minutes are so whimsical and cute that you might think you’re watching a movie for kids! Apparently, this was Ti West’s goal as he stated he wanted to make a “demented Disney movie”. He was also influenced by all the movies released during the Golden Age of Hollywood, namely The Wizard of Oz.
What we eventually got is something much more than just that. Pearl is an incredibly well-crafted movie with an authentic atmosphere. Something that’s hard to do when you’re trying to tell a very familiar story. A story following a young girl living on a remote farm in a small town and dreaming big dreams. And a girl who falls in love with movies, as so many of us do. As with its predecessor, I will avoid using the term elevated horror as I think Pearl surpassed it and became something else. It became one of the finest examples of psychological horror movies done right. We will witness firsthand what drove Pearl to become the person we saw in X.
And just to be clear, you don’t have to watch X in order to enjoy Pearl. Character development was excellent, intelligent, and frighteningly realistic. Too often you see these things happen in real life. And I can tell you that I saw for myself what this type of environment and parenting can do to a person. Although you always wonder what it is exactly that drove someone to become a killer or a serial killer. Or to commit suicide. With only a handful of characters, the movie digs deep and freely explores these complex issues. So, don’t let the festival crowd-pleaser vibes fool you, this is an excellent horror movie that everybody can enjoy.
It is the year of our lord Satan 1918 and the world is finally a bit closer to peace. The Great War is dying down and soldiers are slowly returning to their home countries after years of intense fighting. Pearl is a young girl waiting for her husband to come back from the war. She dreams of becoming a big star despite her modest upbringing. And her mother really doesn’t like this idea. However, where’s will there’s a way…
Pearl was conceived during the filming of the first movie and in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. And since it’s taking place during the infamous 1918 influenza pandemic, the parallels write themselves. Now, I already talked about how Mia Goth crushed her role but I also must mention Tandi Wright who plays her mother Ruth. She was the intimacy coordinator during the filming of X and was offered the role towards the end of the shoot. Tandi accepted, learned fucking German language and fucking nailed her role.
I could go on and on about various aspects of Pearl because it’s a movie perfect for deeper examination. Just take the fact that we have two powerful women and one powerless man in the household. And all of these concepts feel natural without any forced narratives or conclusions. A thing of fucking beauty. With a running time of just over 95 minutes, this is a short and sweet ride. The action starts kind of late, but that doesn’t really matter because the storytelling was just so goddamn juicy. So, don’t waste any more time, and check out this masterpiece now!
Finally, if you’re looking for something similar, I recommend you check out Del Toro’s stylish Nightmare Alley. And I guess that Marrowbone has some similarities (plus Mia Goth in another great role) but you can judge for yourselves once you check it out, it’s a solid horror movie. A24 is one of those companies that’s willing to go the distance. Sometimes this pays off and sometimes it doesn’t (Men 2022). I would list Hereditary, Green Room, Tusk, and The VVitch as examples of hits.
Director: Ti West
Writers: Ti West, Mia Goth
Cast: Mia Goth, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro, David Corenswet
Fun Facts: The porno movie Pearl watches in the backroom of the theater is a real porno movie A Free Ride (1915).