Pearl; Grade: B
Pearl is a prequel to acclaimed slasher film from A24 X, which will be covering the vicious killer Pearl (Mia Goth) to her younger days. Set in 1918, Pearl is a regular ole farm girl whom has big dreams of becoming a major star someday being a dancer in the motion pictures. Pearl unfortunately is going through a rough ordeal: Taking care of her father (Matthew Sunderland) whom is severely paralyzed from a horrific disease going around, her mother (Tandi Wright) not the kindest nor supportive towards Pearl, but more so Pearl’s husband is still out in the war which brings Pearl is a severe state of loneliness. What could strike as the last straw for Pearl to suddenly have to urge to become a mass murderer?!
Ti West surely is having himself a year coming back to cinema after a long drought away. Two films released in a span of six months on the same exact year?! You don’t see that everyday as Ti West wants to let the cinema world know that he is B A C K! I really enjoyed X, I thought it was a fun ole slasher kind of film, that brought some dope death sequences plus surprisingly brought some quality comedy in the mix as well. Was looking forward to this so sudden prequel, hoping it would be as fun as X.
In some ways Pearl resembles likes of X: It has it’s slasher moments, has a couple unintentional comedic bits, plus has a glimpse of pornographic visuals which explains the reason why the older version of Pearl appears to be… A Freak. However I must say that Pearl differs from X, as X is a more lighthearted fun slasher film, while Pearl is a much more character driven drama that does feature sudden horror.
Cinematography wise: This film is absolutely gorgeous to watch, as it felt like entering in a whole new time period of film. Like it truly felt like watching an extremely traditional older picture say round 30’s-50’s, as you wouldn’t believe this was a film made in our current era. I can understand the whole Wizard of Oz comparisons, as when the film is centered around the farm it does look strikingly similar to the farm out in Kansas in the Wizard of Oz.
Mia Goth delivers a truly superb performance as Pearl, as without a doubt she carries this film to it’s rightful potential as without her it would be hard to imagine this character being as emotionally investing as she is. Just the way Goth carries herself through the most crucial moments of the film, whether it be showing a great deal of dysfunction within her emotions or especially delivering a striking unsettling smile at the end credits… Truly magnificent display of acting.
The story is heavily impacted solely on the character development of Pearl, as we come to fully understand why she takes a turn for the worst. I feel when it comes to any woman whom is waiting for the return of their significant other, whom is serving in the military… The immense emotional hardship they have to go through, to continually be extremely patient and hopeful they even return is A LOT to ask for. Keeping your composure and stability in your mind, heart, and soul is a truly heart aching battle, to where you can seriously lose it as the feeling of severe loneliness can spark a great deal of depression as one like Pearl is going through.
On top of that: Looking at Pearl’s current circumstance, there is a reason why she seriously NEEDS her husband immediately. Taking care of a family member whom is severely paralyzed, a mother whom lacks the emotional support her daughter Pearl truly needs, and on top of that there is some pandemic going around… It speaks a great deal of death and misery, which damages Pearl's mental state even more than it already is. This film really speaks great volumes towards Mental Health, as one can seriously lose it if they’re not treating themselves correctly… Amazing how Ti West was able to bring relatable circumstances in which many viewers will honestly relate with what Pearl is going through, especially the pandemic ordeal which Mental Health was completely ignored through 2020.
Though the seven minute or so long dialogue sequence in the third act maybe a little long, however I felt served a great impact on finding some form of reasoning why Pearl has gone off the deep end. It ties in all together with everything going on in Pearl’s life, but more so the frustration, anger, and sadness expressed towards her husband whom went off to the war in the first place. We may not agree to where Pearl ends up, however we rightfully understand and sympathize with Pearl as a fragile kind woman doesn’t deserve to go through all she’s going through, as this all could’ve been prevented if she was brought to better care.
The horror element delivers for me, may not be as entertaining as X however felt in execution delivered truly horrific moments. It’s really more of a physiological horror that comes off more so effective, than the slasher element. I do enjoy the chase down slasher sequence in the third act as it well executed, bringing a great deal and also excitement for horror fans across the board watching Pearl bring herself to her final form.
I guess flaws would have to be some pacing issues here and there, as it doesn’t go on as an entertaining paced like X did. Some of the abnormal sequences like Pearl pleasing herself to a scarecrow felt a bit… Weird. In context it aligns with what Pearl is going through emotionally, but felt a bit unusual towards it’s more serious kind of tone.
This film has aged well over the course of a day: The more I think about it, the more I’m actually impressed by it being more than just being a slasher kind of film like X, but having realistic horror elements that involve Mental Health and such.
Overall, Pearl was a solid film. I recommend checking this one out, surely fans of X, fans of A24, and fans of horror will get a kick out of this one. -Mitch Smietana