Bil’s rating (out of 5): B
USA/Canada, 2022. A24, Bron Studios, MAD SOLAR. Screenplay by Ti West. Cinematography by Eliot Rockett. Produced by Harrison Kreiss, Kevin Turen. Music by Tyler Bates, Chelsea Wolfe. Production Design by Tom Hammock. Costume Design by Malgosia Turzanska. Film Editing by David Kashevaroff, Ti West.
Sex and death, the cinema’s two most common preoccupations, are laid bare in the most unimaginative ways in this attempt to recreate the groovy feeling of seventies horror films (notably the style and atmosphere of Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Martin Henderson is terrific as a low-level porn producer who takes a tiny cast and crew out to the middle of nowhere to shoot a film that he believes will jumpstart his career and that of his hyperconfident girlfriend (Mia Goth). Joining for the ride are fellow stars Brittany Snow and Kid Cudi, their ambitious director Owen Campbell and his girlfriend Jenna Ortega, who didn’t know she was getting involved in an adult film when she agreed to hold a boom mic on the set of his latest project.
The place they have chosen to make this future classic is on the property of an aged farmer and his wife, who give off some creepy vibrations that the young people choose to ignore while getting to their highly profitable dirty work. It’s not long after cameras start rolling and body parts start pumping, though, that the unfriendly hosts begin causing trouble for our filthy little Scooby Gang, and one by one the bodies pile up as we wonder if anyone is going to survive.
Gory and graphic is one of the film’s assets, but its greatest offense is the lack of effort that director Ti West brings to a concept that has been done to death, and remains popular because usually it is given new life by filmmakers with vivid imaginations. There is no sense of mystery or backstory to the characters, and whatever comment being made about the hypocrisy of a society that pretends to be puritan while being obsessed with sex is not clever enough to qualify as a theme. There’s supposed to be, in horror movies made by truly talented exploitation artists, something funny about watching gorgeous people being dispatched in such unpleasant ways, but when Henderson goes on a search for a missing member of their party in nothing but his tighty-whities (a highly impractical choice for a rural farm), it doesn’t seem to be the least bit amusing to this film’s clueless director.
The film’s biggest secret, one that involves a trick in casting, is not done in the service of a clever plot twist and there’s nothing in the action to make you squeamish, because nothing happens with a sense of anticipation or excitement. It’s as if you’re watching a training video with nudity, a remarkably unintelligent horror movie that spits in the faces of its genre and its fans.