Maxxxine- Film Review

Maxine Minx bounds back on to our screens every bit the starlet that she has always wanted to be for this third instalment in the X franchise’s trilogy. It’s 1985, six years after the farmhouse slasher horror X was set, Maxine is seen taking control of her career (she does not accept a life that she does not deserve) and has moved from Texas to LA, with a lead role in the movies. Maxine appears to have evolved into an assured woman with a new blonde hairstyle and a confident, go-getting, attitude to match. As such, Maxxxine differs in tone to its predecessors (X and Pearl) as it charts Maxine’s transformation. Director Ti West has crafted a stylish, riveting tale that perfectly captures that neon infused 1980s vibe complete with VHS tapes, stranger danger as well as an electric soundtrack. Plus, Mia Goth as Maxine acts as though her life depends on it and is thrilling to watch from start to finish!

The desire to be as famous as Lynda Carter, there are several Easter eggs in this vein, continues from X and Pearl. But an empowering, girlboss feel also pervades Maxxxine – there’s a quote from Bette Davis at the outset framing the mood, ‘In this business, until you’re known as a monster – you’re not a star.’  Both sides of Hollywood and fame are therefore thrust into the spotlight with an equal emphasis on the glamour and the seedy aspects of this world. Hollywood is its own character with its sign illuminated from the hills – enticing dreams whilst a serial killer prowls in the background! Maxine also walks along Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, stopping on the star of Theda Bara, a silent film star and the alligator within Pearl is called Theda! Indeed, there is no stone of the film industry left uncovered within Maxxxine as it pays homage to the filmmaking process and highlights the technical skills required on set. It is no co-incidence that a female crew member’s prosthetic make up skill, is highlighted as part of the film’s Hollywood homage and female empowerment.

West’s technical skills are also evident, in case you had any doubt, as Maxxxine feels like an ‘80s film – there is a St Elmo’s Fire film billboard, the St Elmo’s Fire theme also features and the monster of the film could be the presence of the serial killer, the Night Stalker, based on the real life ‘80s killer with the same moniker. The aspect ratio within Maxxxine also resembles the grainy footage of a VHS video tape and Maxxxine’s best friend works at a video shop during the rise of films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street. West has clearly taken the time to research the ‘80s film era and will also satisfy film fans with scenes on the set for Universal film studio including a few peeks at the Psycho film set.

Mia Goth and Tabby Martin in Maxxxine
Mia Goth and Tabby Martin in Maxxxine

Maxxxine is much larger in scale and embodies the brashness of the ‘80s and the ruthless attitudes – Maxine’s female director boss (Elizabeth Debicki), inspired by Susan Seidelman, tells her to squash her distractions which Maxine takes literally! Dark alleyway scenes after-work, evoking stranger danger, are reminiscent of ‘80s MTV videos- there is the smoke filled claustrophobic pathway complete with big hair, high heeled boots and that killer instinct! Maxxxine also seems to draw parallels to the life of singer/actress Madonna, whose career started in the ’80s, – given that she is escaping a strict, sheltered overly religious childhood by rebelling and joining an overly sexualised industry. Other connections to Madonna can be found – Giancarlo Esposito plays Maxine’s lawyer/ agent who epitomises the seedy, sinister underground aspects of Hollywood and he made his acting debut in 1985 starring in Desperately Seeking Susan with Madonna! Another ‘80s Hollywood star also features in Maxxxine being Kevin Bacon in an almost unrecognisable role as he epitomises the sleazy side behind his search for Maxine.

Maxxxine is a busy, meta film but still has the time to underline its connections between a conservative Christian right wing period, and other topical events including protests against slasher horror films and indeed those MTV music videos as being corrupting, Satanic influences on the young. Maxxxine, thus, explores those connections between original sin, capitalism and horrific crimes against women to terrifying effect.

Amongst all of this, Goth truly shines by conveying a self-preservation attitude and determination in order for Maxine to succeed in her quest for stardom, whatever the cost! Maxine may have been the final girl, robbed of her naivety, as she had previously admitted in X to not liking blood and gore. Now, she makes remarks about the fate of previous persons that tried to kill her, states that potential victims should look after themselves like she did and weaponises her keys. Maxine’s arc has therefore been fascinating to follow as part of the X trilogy.

Despite there being scenes interspersed with Maxine’s origin story, West is not inviting us to sympathise with Maxine but instead to celebrate her ambition and desire to escape from her past and re-invent herself. This is a mature, adult version of Maxine as she has graduated from the adult industry so that she can truly be that ‘star’ on the big screen. There will be many commentators who prefer the raw, independent feel of the grindhouse horror, X, or the technicolour violent quirkiness of Pearl. But, Maxxxine’s ambition should be celebrated with its tongue in cheek approach to the cartoonist splatter of slasher films and its emphasis on the naked, singular ambition of a woman striving to succeed in a man’s world within film. Still, there is no escaping that Maxxxine’s focus on being that ‘80s homage detracts from the film’s plot, which relies heavily on Goth’s star quality performance to entice audiences with this thriller.

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Nadia Tereskiewicz exudes a gentle, leading lady quality and shines…
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