Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Director Ti West completes his pulp and cult X trilogy with “MaXXXine.” The film is nearly volcanic with imagistic and eye-popping references to many horror films from “Cruising” to “Rosemary’s Baby,” Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome.”

The sheer volume of film references combined with the iconic sight of Mia Goth, who recalls Nancy Allen from Brian De Palma fame, makes this film a sight, but its impersonal spaced-out tone, feels distant and lacks charge.

Maxine (Mia Goth) is an adult film actress hoping to make it big. In her previous films, the character has been through the gore squeezer. It is now 1980. Maxine is now auditioning for a demonic possession film called “Puritan 2.” She passes the audition and then some, but we get a hint that something was amiss when Maxine is asked to reveal her breasts.

She walks to her apartment, but not before being attacked by a man dressed as the silent film star Buster Keaton. Maxine subdues the man, puts a gun in his mouth and brutally turns his penis to a bloody mush.

The next day, she walks into a video store and becomes entranced by various clips from her past productions, highlighting her roles from the previous two films in the trilogy, most scarily as an evil and desiccated lady named Pearl.

Pearl drifts from the video screen into Maxine’s dream life. If this film can be called a horror film in the conventional sense, these are the scariest moments.

Pearl also ushers in Maxine’s father Ernest, (Simon Prast) a demonic looking evangelical zealot.

It is 1980 and Hollywood is rampant with stories and worries over devil worship and the censorship of rock music and MTV. The streets are also plagued by Richard Ramirez, a serial killer known as The Night Stalker. These historical touches from pop culture are vivid and arresting, but they also seem like window dressing for the gore and the buckets of blood that run over the eye.

The “Psycho” touches are also well done, but there are not enough of them.

As in “The Bikeriders,” this film is a conceptual time capsule recalling 1970s era TV shows like “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” to the films “Dressed to Kill,” “Carrie” and “The Stepford Wives.” The gore is produced in such a detached way, that it feels like a cataloguing medley of a bygone era. Michelle Monaghan also appears as a tribute to 80s detective films.

There is something genuinely scary in the aged hysterical Pearl, speaking of the sadness of time passing, a fear of the unknown, the uncanny and the hard to define.

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