“Pearl” Movie Review

“Pearl”, prequel to “X”, explores the disturbing backstory of the complex obsessive character that is Pearl.


Only months trailing the release of director Ti West’s erotic horror film “X” comes its disturbing prequel “Pearl,” which shines a revealing light on the imperfect, obsessive character of Pearl (Mia Goth). 

I won’t spoil “X,” but Goth is featured conspicuously throughout both films. In “X,” Pearl is the host of a group of filmmakers trying to make the perfect pornographic film right under her nose. What better place to film secretly than a secluded Texas farmhouse, right? In “Pearl,” she’s the same character who plays a much younger version than the old woman she was in “X.” Instead of being set in 1979, “Pearl” takes us back to 1918 when Pearl and her farm are experiencing the effects of the Spanish flu epidemic and World War I. However, Pearl isn’t focused on those hardships, but rather on her dream of becoming a famous dancer.

She falls in love – no, obsesses – with flashing images of dancing showgirls. It gets to the point where she literally dances with a scarecrow on a haystack with a pitchfork, which was strangely hilarious. Besides the fact that she murders animals when no one is watching and feeds her alligator-of-a-best-friend a goose that she impaled in one of the opening scenes, Pearl is nothing but a young girl who aspires to be a performer. 

Besides wanting to escape the farm, we come to learn that all Pearl wants to have is her name out in the world and someone to truly love her. Her falsified perfection and fear of reality drive her to the edge and whoever makes her feel small in this big world, suffers for it. 

Along her disturbing journey to stardom, Pearl meets a dashing young man (David Corenswet) who catches her eye as he promises her a future of fame. He makes her feel like a movie star. Although the production of the movie greatly strayed from her original intent, she remained with the questionable terms, purly for her need to satisfy her obsession. Let’s just say their work relationship doesn’t last long. 

“Pearl” is about how terrifying actors can be as they feed on the need for attention. So it’s fitting that the final scene is West’s most vivid shot of Goth using her face to sinister ends. It’s a gaping, forced smile. Her face is twitching from exhaustion, yet her teeth radiate happiness. It’s a discomforting sight that makes me think it’s a silent call for help.

While the portrayal of Pearl is spot on with Goth’s commitment, there are just too many questionable moments. The movie wasn’t as scary as I thought it’d be. Mentally, I feel like I’m still shaking in fear as Pearl’s need to kill shows just how alarming some people are. The execution of the film also doesn’t help us with what we should take away from Pearl’s desperation for love, violent outbursts and delusions. “Pearl” seemingly gets too close to letting you simply make fun of her. And we know she wouldn’t like that.