“You think others won’t notice? You can’t keep your true self hidden forever, Pearl.”Ruth
Filmed back-to-back with X, the only cross-over in this “origin story” is Mia Goth, who co-wrote with director Ti West and is magnificent in her embodiment of the demure, unstable Pearl. West continues his blend of horror and period filmmaking, this time drawing inspiration from early technicolour movies like The Wizard of Oz, the vibrant colours of its early 20th century Americana at odds with its tone. Pearl desperately wants to be a star but extended shots of her performative stage smile devolve into an unsettling rictus grin. Even in less obvious moments, West has a skill for allowing the camera to linger a moment too long to be comfortable. Pearl uses the 1918 flu pandemic to draw on viewers’ recent pandemic experiences of fear, distrust and isolation. This allows the audience some empathy with Pearl’s sense of suffocation on the family farm — caring for her invalid father under the yoke of her stern German mother — even as we know that her response is destined to be horrific. My experience with Pearl was much the same as X: its depth may be limited but there is plenty to enjoy in its period detail and atmosphere.