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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at New School chapter.

Attention self-proclaimed horror junkies: Looking for the perfect movie to kick off the Halloween season? Then TI West’s Pearl might be the psychological thriller for you! Pearl is the prequel to West’s movie X, which also stars Mia Goth reprising the titular role.  Set in 1979, a group of young filmmakers settle in a desolate rural Texas farm in hopes of creating an adult film to break into the blossoming porn industry. Of course, the odds are revealed to be in their favor, as they are being hunted down by the elderly married couple who own the farm. Goth, who plays “Maxine” in X and Pearl in both films, creatively collaborates with the director on the backstory behind the character of Pearl.

Pearl is set in 1918, on the same isolated Texas farm that the group from X would stay at over the next 50 years. The setting and set design of the movie established an unsettling feeling amongst viewers. The audience is met with a decrepit off-white house, where the creaky floorboards compliment the overall sinisterness of what will soon be discovered happening behind closed doors. The exterior of the house looks abandoned since it has no decor to show that there’s a sign of life living there. Acres of land surround the house, with no neighbors or storefronts for the family to relish in. There is an eerie, dark-green lake adjacent to the barn with its stagnant water that leaves the viewer curious for what’s underneath it. 

Directly in front of the house is the family’s barn, which is the stage for many of Pearl’s antics throughout the film. Meant to shelter the livestock that resides on the farm, the barn is truly where Pearl’s talents got to shine. Motivated by her desire to become a star, she would exercise her vivid imagination by performing her one-woman show – which was accompanied by singing and dance routines. Using her setting of the barn, she would use the cows as a stand-in for an audience, envisioning them cheering and applauding her. This is another way West utilizes setting to appeal to the audience’s emotions, as the barn scenes paint out Pearl’s desperation as an individual seeking validation. Many could empathize, or perhaps find something to cringe at during these scenes. They are ultimately unsettling in retrospect, as Pearl’s later actions are spurred on by this same desperation exhibited at her barn performances. 

If you are familiar with the well-known film company, A24, then you know that they do not shy away from a gut-wrenching scene when their movies are centered around the horror and thriller genre. West is no exception to the A24 pattern, providing audiences with gore-filled images that will have to prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster that comes with watching this movie. Furthermore, it is important to comment on the overall color palette and score of the film. 

West and Goth dreamt of a technicolor film, in ode to films like the Wizard of Oz. The score is inspired by old Hollywood, with a vintage symphonic orchestra in the background. The film’s color palette is pleasing to the viewer’s eyes, with ultra-saturated hues that largely defy the common dark and gloomy aesthetics that many horror films adhere to. Perhaps Pearl is the evil version of Dorothy, but without the pleasant characteristics that are required for a feel-good family movie. There is a scarecrow though! I will not go into detail as to what Pearl does to him, but this movie really is no Wizard of Oz when it comes to its target audience.

Going further into the plot, Pearl’s dreams of becoming a movie star are brought down by her ill father– who requires around-the-clock care, and her tyrannical, overbearing mother. Pearl’s husband, Howard, is fighting the war and leaving her to deal with her troubled home life alone. She cannot find a way to escape her issues, either. The 1918 Spanish Flu greatly affected the movie industry, with many people refraining from going to the movies out of personal safety. For a girl who just wants to tap dance and twirl around on stage in her shiny red dress, Pearl cannot catch a break. 

Soon, we are introduced to a darker side of Pearl. A character who just wanted to be a star begins to expressionlessly kill animals around the farm, setting her literal mother on fire, or feeding her disabled father to her lake alligator friend, Bertha. 

Goth’s Oscar-worthy performance was alluring and unleashed a fresh take on psychological horror today.  Most notable is Goth’s six-minute monologue scene, where she looks completely disheveled while venting about her life to her naive sister-in-law. I was on the edge of my seat during this scene because there is a level of magnetism that comes with listening to a villain being vulnerable and personal, as Pearl exhibits in this monologue. Audiences feel a sense of empathy for the villain, rather than reducing them to a sleep paralysis demon with no character nuance.

From start to finish, there were plenty of references throughout this movie that will definitely be at the forefront of many Twitter and Tiktok memes. Fans are vouching for this movie to enact as their “female Joker,” claiming that they relate to Pearl’s motives. 

West is planning on releasing Maxxxine, the final puzzle piece to the X trilogy that he’s creating with Goth. He got ahead of himself before Pearl’s release and shared a teaser on every social media platform. West is a mastermind who will transcend the rules of the horror movie genre, and hopefully, there will be more horror movie trilogies in the near future. I hope to see Goth’s name on the 2023 Oscar nomination list, which will leave me with no surprise because that monologue left a blueprint for future horror movies to aspire towards. 

Karen Arrobo

New School '24

Hi! My name is Karen Arrobo, I'm a sophomore at The New School pursuing Journalism & Design and Culture and Media. I enjoy listening to music and making playlists, film photography, and watching movies from any genre. I focus on a myriad of topics including music, art, culture, beauty, etc. I'm open to talking about more topics!