Review

Maxxxine is Destined to be a Star of the Horror Genre

“Until you’re known as a monster, you’re not a star.”

Inverse Reviews

“The devil has come back. To make her pay for her greatest sin: the sin of living,” reads the theatrical poster for Maxine Minx’s Hollywood debut, a horror sequel that puts the defiant and rebellious lead of Ti West’s X trilogy in the big league spotlight for the first time.

After a harrowing dance with death in the 2022 film, Mia Goth’s Minx finally has what she wants — and in turn, the devil indeed comes back to make her pay for the sin of living beyond those she had to leave behind in X, and the ones she left years before that. With that interrogation of self-preservation at the forefront, Maxxxine becomes a fitting and exciting conclusion to an important franchise that, to the end, challenged the idea of what it means for women to be free to be who they are — no matter how messed up the person they unleash in the process might be.

Mia Goth gives a tour-de-force performance in the third and final film of Ti West’s X Trilogy.

A24

Maxxxine picks up where X left off, reintroducing Maxine years later, in 1985. She’s 33 years old and a queen in the porn scene — but, as we know, she wants more than that. When she books a starring role in an up-and-coming horror picture, the potential starlet thinks she’s got the ticket to stardom. But when the infamous Night Stalker starts to invade the minds and homes of the Los Angeles normies, things begin to unravel for Maxine until she is standing face to face with her darkest demons.

This is certainly a film that finds its foundation in its performances. The supporting cast brings the world of the film to life, and it’s hard to say that the movie would work without such strong personalities in the mix. Halsey and newcomer Chloe Farnworth (who stole the show in genre gem 12 Hour Shift) shine as two of Maxine’s porn star friends who become entangled in the riff raff that descends upon Los Angeles as her film kicks off. Halsey, in particular, is so committed to crafting a character for her short amount of screen time that it’s hard not to fall for the charm she oozes.

Elizabeth Debicki, as the charismatic but intimidating director of Maxine’s big break, becomes both obstacle and cold, often cruel, guide through an uncaring film industry for the ambitious Maxine. Kevin Bacon is perhaps the standout of the supporting players, giving a sleazy performance as a private investigator tailing Maxine. Complete with a nearly perfect and hilariously exaggerated Southern accent, Bacon’s inclusion in the film lays the laughs on thick and genuinely adds a layer of frazzled immediacy to Maxine’s life and career obstacles. But naturally, the most important performance of the film is Goth’s — and the scream queen does not disappoint with a powerhouse final turn. By this point in the franchise, it’s clear that Goth intrinsically knows the heart of her character in a profound way that can only be shared with her creator, West himself.

Maxxxine brings full circle the X Trilogy’s focus on the female mystique — and the female monster.

A24

The film is proud of being the ending installment of a killer trilogy, and West does a killer job at weaving in thoughtful callbacks to both X and Pearl that make dramatic sense in the world of the story. The movie opens with a young Maxine tap dancing on a home video, much in the same way Pearl did at her fateful audition. West gives his audience the same doors-opening establishing shot of the last two films, but uses a gigantic film studio door this time around. Among many others, these tie-ins bolster the worldbuilding of West’s story, and elevate the film — and the franchise as a whole — from a typical horror film to a future classic in the genre. In general, the writing of the film sometimes feels heavy-handed, but considering Maxine herself has never been anything close to subtle (and she’s proud of that), the overt nature of the dialogue feels natural and lived in despite some cliches here and there.

Visually, West’s directorial eye is a highlight of the film, packing the screen with tension and mood. The filmmaker (who also edited this picture) trains his camera down long ominous corridors to up the dread and then cools us off with sexy split screen montages and dreamy silhouettes of the female form. The movie knows the two worlds it's playing in, and makes sure to fill the audience up with excesses of both. Similarly, the movie is a clear cut ‘80s nostalgia piece and subscribes to the exact kind of unmistakable pastiche and camp you’d expect from a film so concerned with its era. But the film feels at times to be in on the joke — one example involves a soberingly hilarious moment where two cops (Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan) peel back the sheet on a body, then raise their eyebrows comically in Maxine’s direction as if to say, “This you?”

If there was any question Mia Goth was a star before, there isn’t now.

A24

“In this business, until you’re known as a monster, you’re not a star.” This legendary quote from a legendary starlet — none other than Bette Davis — is potentially the most fitting epigraph Maxxxine could’ve opened with. Ultimately, this film and this new staple series has always been about just that: for strong women, it’s impossible to be who you truly are without the world around you seeing it as monstrous. West’s dialed-in focus on championing the female struggle for agency has been a true joy to witness over the course of three nuanced and gloriously gory films. Maxine becomes both a monster and a mythos by the time the credits roll — and West’s final entry into the modern horror canon seamlessly comes to a confident and glorious close, a star immortalized in her bloody triumph of the self.

Maxxxine opens in theaters July 5.

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