A24’s Pearl has room to improve

3.5/5 stars. Spoilers for the films X and Pearl incoming.

The latest A24 horror movie to capture the internet’s attention is Pearl, the second film in the “X” trilogy. This retro thriller diverges from the 1970’s slasher vibes of the titular X, posturing itself as a classic psychological thriller until it veers off the rails with gore and shock horror. 

Mia Goth reprises her role as Pearl, this time foregoing the intensive special effects makeup and playing a young Pearl. This film seeks to act as a backstory to Goth’s psychotic elderly murderer character in X. The second in what is due to be a three part series, Pearl is a character study of the titular character, but it’s not very exciting in comparison to the first film.

Goth is not the only actor to amaze in this film. Break-out star Tandi Wright is phenomenal as Ruth, Goth’s overbearing, abusive mother. Their complex relationship is a focal point of the film. Wright acted as an intimacy coordinator on X, and her role in Pearl  happened by chance. The New Zealand actress became so endeared to director Ti West that he offered her a role. Wright fully immersed herself in her role as a German immigrant by learning conversational German and mastering the accent. 

The visuals of this film are stunning yet disgusting. Nods to The Wizard of Oz are clear in the color-grading and exaggerated acting. The numerous spectacular dream/hallucination sequences illustrate Pearl’s degrading mental state and add a deeper level of madness to this beautiful film. Many scenes are so vividly disturbing that they stick with the viewer for a long time after viewing.

The incredible visuals are absolutely necessary to counteract the writing, which is at times boring and forgettable. The character study of Pearl is impressive, but the rest of the story is somewhat lackluster at times. There are also a few plot holes that are difficult to ignore, however the visuals certainly help.