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MAXXXINE Review: A Missed Opportunity for Horror's Brightest Star

Mia Goth as Maxine blows kisses to her fans at the world premiere of her movie
Mia Goth in MAXXXINE | Image Courtesy of A24

By Shannon McGrew

When X was released in 2022, it took the horror community by storm. After focusing primarily on directing TV series, Ti West returned from a six-year hiatus to deliver a unique slasher and introduce a memorable new scream queen, Maxine, played by Mia Goth. However, at the time, West had another surprise: he and Mia Goth had a trilogy planned around the two main characters, Maxine and Pearl, with the second film, Pearl, filmed back-to-back with X.

Pearl offered a stark contrast to X, focusing more on Pearl as a character study and revealing how she became, well, Pearl. With the release of MAXXXINE, the final chapter in West’s X trilogy, we see where Maxine landed after the events of X. But is it a fitting conclusion to this beloved horror trilogy? Unfortunately, for this critic, it failed to meet the standards set by West’s previous films, resulting in a forgettable ending.

To avoid revealing spoilers, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: In 1980s Hollywood, adult film star and aspiring actress Maxine Minx finally gets her big break. But as a mysterious killer stalks the starlets of Hollywood, a trail of blood threatens to reveal her sinister past.

MAXXXINE features an A-list cast, infusing the film with a touch of Hollywood royalty. Kevin Bacon shines as private eye John Labat, hired by a mysterious individual who feels ripped from the screen of a Giallo film to follow Maxine. Equally impressive is Elizabeth Debicki, whose portrayal of megalomaniac director Elizabeth Bender is so compelling that I wished the film focused more on her and the relationship she was cultivating with Maxine, the star of her horror film The Puritan II, rather than everything else that unfolds.

Mia Goth as Maxine and her friend played by Halsey walk the streets of Los Angeles
Mia Goth and Halsey in MAXXXINE | Image courtesy of A24

The supporting cast includes Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale as Detectives Williams and Torres, respectively, investigating the mysterious deaths of sex workers closely tied to Maxine. Giancarlo Esposito portrays Maxine’s agent, Teddy Night, whose sketchy charm makes him lovable and detestable. Halsey, “Yellowjackets” star Sophie Thatcher, and Lily Collins deliver “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” performances. While Halsey’s role felt somewhat justified, assigning throwaway parts to such well-known actors seemed unnecessary.

MAXXXINE’s biggest flaw is its lackadaisical approach to storytelling. In X and Pearl, Ti West crafted compelling narratives that, despite their different styles, allowed viewers to immerse themselves in the lives of Maxine and Pearl. West excelled at imbuing these characters with depth and personality, fostering a strong connection with the audience. However, in MAXXXINE, the character development is notably deficient. Instead of delving into who Maxine is at this stage of her life, we are presented with only a superficial glimpse of her character.

That being said, West ensures that Maxine Minx retains her bad bitch attitude. When she shines, she truly SHINES. Violence is a constant companion for Maxine, a theme that persists throughout the film (and, for Mia Goth, in real life). Amidst all the gore and carnage, one defining scene offers a fleeting glimpse of the Maxine we love. While walking down a dark avenue, she encounters a man who traps her and flicks open his knife, seemingly intent on mugging her… or worse. Let’s just say it doesn’t end well for him, as Maxine literally stomps into action, reminding us of her true nature.

What works in MAXXXINE’s favor is its ability to bring the story full circle by incorporating flashbacks that reference both X and Pearl. While I’d recommend watching those films beforehand, it’s not strictly necessary. What’s commendable about these films is that, despite Ti West’s intention to interconnect them, each can still be enjoyed as a standalone experience.

Overall, MAXXXINE didn’t achieve the stardom it had the potential for, especially when it reaches the third act and begins to fall apart. With a few more script revisions, a greater focus on core characters rather than throwaway ones, and less emphasis on paying homage to various horror styles, it could have been a more fitting conclusion to an otherwise near-perfect trilogy.

MAXXXINE arrives in theaters everywhere July 5.


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