‘MaXXXine’ Review: Ti West’s Trilogy Finale Gives Mia Goth’s Aspiring Starlet the Sendoff She Deserves


In keeping with the current cinematic era, even a franchise centered around slasher films and porn has a “universe” these days, as “MaXXXine” closes out an unlikely trilogy from writer-director Ti West and star Mia Goth. Moving up a notch in terms of cast, the film works best as an ode to the movies and grungy cinema of 1980s Hollywood, and a little less as a mystery built around its would-be star.

This is Goth’s Maxine Minx, an adult film actress who survived a rural massacre during a remote shoot on “X,” whose roots were explored in the prequel “Pearl.” Maxine is now in Los Angeles and trying to make it in legitimate films (“Acting is acting,” she says confidently during her audition), even if said film is a horror movie that’s sparking protests and accusations of Satanism outside the studio.

As she pursues that big opportunity, repeating her mantra, “I will not accept a life I don’t deserve,” Maxine also learns that someone seems to be after her, having set a private detective (Kevin Bacon, furious) on her trail, dredging up memories from her past. That at least provides connective tissue to “X” and motivations that might go beyond the main character being very, very unlucky, as “final girls” tend to be.

The danger also comes at a time of heightened alert in the city, as it’s 1985 and the Night Stalker killer is still on the loose. Not that Maxine’s porn buddies seem particularly nervous as they fight and claw, trying to meet people with the clout to advance their careers.

In addition to Bacon, the supporting cast includes Halsey, Giancarlo Esposito, “The Crown’s” Elizabeth Debicki and Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan as a pair of detectives eager to find out what Maxine knows about the crime wave surrounding her, which only triggers her skepticism and can-do attitude, applying the same ruthless pursuit of stardom to her self-advocacy.

Goth once again turns her alter ego into a force of nature, but the film’s simpler pleasures are found in its evocation of the era, with songs like “Bette Davis Eyes” and the hit “St. Elmo’s Fire,” as well as Angelyne billboards and nods to films like “Dressed to Kill.”

Though the theatrical box office has enjoyed positive signs of life this summer, horror has remained a reliable staple since the pandemic began, thanks in part to the discount quality of films like “X” and “Pearl,” relative to would-be blockbusters — as long as they deliver the requisite thrills.

West mixes some wit with the gore here, though the result, unfortunately, falls short of the preparation. By then, however, “MaXXXine” has generated enough nostalgia for its genre to merit a stroll down its alleys and, not coincidentally, the introduction and farewell that Goth’s character deserves.

“MaXXXine” opens in U.S. theaters on July 5. It is rated R.

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