“Pearl” review: Mia Goth is the Shelley Duvall of modern cinema


Courtesy of A24

Mia Oliva, Reviews Editor

Director and screenwriter Ti West collaborates with actress Mia Goth in writing the prequel of his hit slasher “X” that took the horror genre to new heights just last spring. 

Antecedent to the events in “X” which took place in 1979, “Pearl” further acquaints audiences with the menacing antagonist introduced in West’s March release and elaborates on her murderous evolution. Set in 1918 rural Texas at the height of the Spanish flu, Pearl (Goth) is confined to farm life after her father falls ill and her mother orders her assistance. However, Pearl’s dreams transcend that of being a farmer’s daughter. She longs to be a star and refuses to let anything stop her from it.

While the film was enjoyable and kept me engaged, I would have to say that it was strictly as a result of Goth’s stupefying performance. If her performance was weak, the film would’ve most likely been monotonous. On the contrary, it was much more distinctive from the slasher genre than “X” was, and both films had me on the edge of my seat. Nonetheless, the predictability was prevalent hence knowing Pearl’s future predicament hereafter.

West also sheds light on pandemic circumstances by inserting references such as masks being incorporated into daily life and phrases such as “you can’t tell who anyone is with all these masks these days.” I found that aspect of the film rather striking, as it ultimately plays into Pearl’s dread and eventually, her breaking point. Mention of pandemic distress had yet to be epitomized in modern cinema, and West did so splendidly.

Another fascinating factor to the film is West’s utilization of the popular 20th century filmmaking process known as technicolor. As a result, “Pearl” hits it on the nail in terms of encompassing that vibrant yet grainy ambiance that initial colored films introduced to audiences back in the day. Primary hues play a pivotal role in the plot. For instance, there is a habitual use of bright red. Even the blood is so unrealistically vibrant that it exudes an old film essence as well. 

As formerly mentioned, Goth’s performance was unquestionably transcendent. If her performance as Maxine Minx in “X” stunned audiences, “Pearl” is sure to leave them speechless. In the third act of the film, Goth delivers a bone-chilling monologue that is sure to cement her place in the industry. Her technique delivers a rejuvenating revival to the slasher-horror genre, something I have yet to see since Shelley Duvall’s iconic performance in Kubrick’s “The Shining”.

All in all, I highly recommend this film as it exceeds any modern horror film I have watched in both uniqueness and authenticity alike. 


“Pearl” is now available in theaters.

Illustration by Ariel Landry