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Ti West wrote X’s slasher sequel in quarantine so he could make the movies back-to-back

X is now on VOD so you can get ready for the sequel

Mia Goth, shoulders bare and head in a kerchief, gives a come-hither look back over her shoulder in Ti West’s X Image: A24
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Director Ti West’s new horror film X is a wonderful throwback to old-school slashers. It’s set in a remote cabin, features teens who are mostly doomed, and includes plenty of gruesome kills. Of course, a truly classic slasher also needs a sequel, and X’s is already on the way.

In a recent Zoom interview with Polygon, West explained how he filmed X and its sequel, Pearl, back-to-back, and how one of X’s stars is the key to making both movies work. In case you still need to catch up on the first movie before the sequel arrives, X is now available on VOD from services like Apple Movies, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.

[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for X.]

The plan for X started with just one movie about a group of young people who rent a cabin in Texas where they plan to shoot a softcore porno. Before they can finish their movie, they end up hunted by the strange old couple who owns the property. While most of X plays out like a traditional slasher, one of its big twists is the double casting of Mia Goth as both Maxine, the porno’s lead, and Pearl, the old woman murdering every young person in sight.

Mia Goth hides under the floorboards in Ti West’s X Photo: A24

“The goal was always to [double cast], but I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull that off,” West told Polygon. “But that’s a complete credit to Mia. Once I met Mia, I was like, ‘We can pull this off.’ Also WETA [Workshop] for making amazing prosthetics. We had a world class performer and a world class effects company so we were able to do it.”

Pearl will bring Goth back to play the younger version of X’s murderer. While X includes bits and pieces of the character’s backstory, Pearl will show us exactly what happened to the character in the mid-20th century to turn her into an octogenarian killer. While all of this seems to fit together nicely, the creation of the sequel was more of a spur-of-the-moment decision for West.

X had to be shot in New Zealand because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the time the country had a 14-day quarantine for anyone flying in from abroad. That two-week period left West with a lot of time on his hands and a few fresh ideas, so he got to work on the sequel.

“That’s a long time to sit in a room,” West said. “So I had an idea for a prequel. I figured I would write it in these two weeks and Mia and I sort of collaborated over FaceTime. We looked at it like ‘I think this is a great idea. [...] There’s a good chance we can make this movie and at the very least it serves as a very detailed backstory to Pearl.’”

West then pitched the idea to A24, X’s production studio, which was immediately onboard, so West, Goth, and the movies’ crew made X and Pearl more or less at the same time. Of course, making one movie is hard enough so making two in a row proved to be an even greater challenge, but in a somewhat unexpected way, according to West.

A woman with a bloodied hand sobs in Ti West’s X Photo: Christopher Moss/A24

“It was really like, not making both movies but editing both of them that was the biggest challenge,” West explained. “Because as you got near the end of X, and you were sort of enjoying that triumph of almost being done, to be back at zero on Pearl was like psychologically, you know, quite challenging.”

West was reticent to divulge many more details about Pearl, but he did let slip that he was finishing up the movie in the near future and hoped for it to be released sometime within the next year. As an extra little bonus he mentioned that, “the movies are very different.” But we’ll have to wait until our first look at Pearl to see what exactly that means.