By: Skylar Brown, Contributing Writer (‘25)
“Hell hath no fury like a woman [named Pearl].”
Set in 1918, as a war and pandemic tear through the world, Pearl is an intense character study of a young girl whose desire to reach stardom collides with her devout mother and ailing father. As a prequel to X, which was released only six months prior, the movie pursues Pearl, an esteemed killer, through her youth and provides a perilous explanation for her actions.
Pearl is not a horror movie in the same way X is, X takes the more general approach as a slasher. It opts out of the gore-tinged excitement of bloodshed, substituting the gore and depravity of X with a full-fledged character analysis of Pearl. Still, it is a perfect complement to Ti West’s first movie purely because of this drastic difference, as he manages to retain eerie humor and a not-so-subtle theme of female neurosis both times. Though the lack of horror could definitely be a bust for those looking for blood and gore, West undoubtedly makes up for it by providing an indulgent story that elicits a sense of exuberance and unease through a classic horror flick persona. Even without the obvious bloodshed, it focuses on the psychological impact that comes with degradation and isolation, an equally haunting concept for entirely different reasons.
West pays homage to 50s technicolor with a more classical film score and movie approach. He, working alongside the main actress, Mia Goth, gives the movie a bold and melodramatic color palette and more psychological aim, prioritizing aesthetic and discomfort over the stereotypical horror genre of jumpscares and demons. He makes it so it’s easy to feel a sort of sympathy for Pearl and her demented ideals, if only because she is so very understandable and entertaining. Beyond the plot itself, Mia Goth’s performance as Pearl is unique and special. Trading her iconic blue eyeshadow look for a blood-red dress and pitchfork, she shifts seamlessly from a movie star living at the expense of Pearl’s delusions to the crazed fame-seeking wannabe herself, in her younger years. Goth’s acting is sublime, furthering to cement herself as an impeccable actress who deserves far more credit than she’s received. Between her character evolution and each of the emotional nuances that come with them, and her jaw-dropping ten-minute monologue towards the end of the prequel, she deserves nothing less than an Oscar. Hell, give her the entire goddamn self-worth.
All in all, it was unsurprisingly excellent, West managed to surpass expectations once again with this stunning prequel. It’s unlike anything else in horror cinema history, delivering a bone-chilling experience that’s both heartbreaking and timeless without inducing legitimate fear. For those who aren’t big fans of slaughter, and don’t mind a (not so) healthy dose of insanity, Pearl is the perfect movie to watch before Halloween. And even for those that do prefer the slasher approach: give it a shot, there’s much to enjoy about the movie beyond the label or horror!