Mia Goth and Halsey in 'Maxxxine'.

(L to R) Mia Goth and Halsey in 'Maxxxine'. Photo: Starmaker Studios LLC.

Opening in theaters July 5 is ‘MaXXXine,’ directed by Ti West and starring Mia Goth, Kevin Bacon, Giancarlo Esposito, Elizabeth Debicki, Lily Collins, Halsey, Michelle Monaghan, and Bobby Cannavale.

Related Article: Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård Talk Brandon Cronenberg's 'Infinity Pool'

Initial Thoughts

Mia Goth in 'Maxxxine'.

Mia Goth in 'Maxxxine'. Photo: Starmaker Studios LLC.

Ti West is nothing if not ambitious. The indie horror auteur has followed up 2022’s ‘X’ (set in the ‘70s) and ‘Pearl’ (set in 1918) with ‘MaXXXine,’ the conclusion to what has turned into a wide-ranging horror trilogy spanning three seminal decades in American history and popular culture. Now ‘MaXXXine’ fast-forwards to the 1980s, when the indie horror of the ‘70s was seeping into Hollywood and changing the way the genre was portrayed and films were made, while at the same time the porn industry was migrating to home video.

The epicenter of it all is Hollywood, the connection point between sleaze and cinema, and at the very center of West’s movie is Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), the sole survivor of ‘X’ and now an established adult film star looking to make it big in mainstream movies. Goth, who also played an elderly Pearl in ‘X’ and a younger version in ‘Pearl,’ plays Maxine to the hilt this time around, her drive for success just as relentless as her determination to let nothing stand in her way.

‘MaXXXine’ is largely driven by Goth’s magnetic performance, which is just as much the centerpiece here as it was in the previous films. And this time she and West are working on a bigger canvas, with a larger, star-studded cast, and an expansive narrative. But while the first two-thirds of the movie are fun, the last act strangely lets down both Maxine herself and the world West is building.

Story and Direction

Director Ti West on the set of 'Maxxxine'.

Director Ti West on the set of 'Maxxxine'. Photo: Starmaker Studios LLC.

Several years after the farmhouse massacre that ended ‘X,’ sole survivor and top porn star Maxine Minx yearns to make the leap to mainstream movies. She gets the chance via ‘The Puritan II,’ a sequel to a slasher hit that’s being directed by Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki), who sees tremendous potential in Maxine but perhaps overestimates that of her own movie. Just as filming begins, people around Maxine – including her porn actor friend Tabby (Halsey) and others – begin to die, killed gruesomely in a series of attacks (shot Dario Argento-style) that resemble those being perpetrated by the Night Stalker (a real-life serial killer who terrorized L.A. in 1984 and 1985).

Maxine also gets a visit from a seedy private detective named John Labat (Kevin Bacon), who’s up from New Orleans to find Maxine on behalf of a mysterious client. The client may have knowledge of Maxine’s involvement in the farmhouse murders – and may also have a connection to the killings that are closing in around her now as well.

‘MaXXXine’ both pays homage to and satirizes the Hollywood culture of the time, the slasher genre that was prevalent that decade, and the efforts to which women have to go to make it in the business (particularly in the ‘80s). West, cinematographer Eliot Rockett, and production designer Jason Kisvardy get the aesthetic of the period almost absolutely perfect: scenes are either brightly lit or awash in inky darkness, while the buildings, interiors, cars, and props immediately immerse the viewer in both the gaudiness and tackiness of the decade (they’re equally matched by the wardrobe, makeup, and hair, courtesy of Mari-An Ceo, Sarah Rubano, and Jaime Leigh McIntosh, respectively).

Mia Goth and Sophie Thatcher in 'Maxxxine'.

(L to R) Mia Goth and Sophie Thatcher in 'Maxxxine'. Photo: Starmaker Studios LLC.

All this is in service of a story that is wildly offbeat and a bit unstructured for its first two-thirds, as Maxine pursues her dream even as the grisly killings continue around her (and they are gruesome, in that delightfully bloody ‘80s way). In addition to Labat, she’s also under the scrutiny of two cops played by Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale, the latter out to nail Maxine for the crimes while the former responds to her as a fellow woman struggling in a male-dominated business.

When it all comes to a head in the final third, however, ‘MaXXXine’ loses both steam and coherence. There are simply too many plot strands and characters for West to juggle effectively, and a few crucial points get lost in the shuffle. Curiously, Maxine also loses a great deal of her agency in the latter half of the film, acting almost as a passive bystander as events happen to and around her. While she reasserts herself at the very end, Maxine doesn’t quite push the confluence of events forward, robbing her arc of some of its potency.

The Cast

Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki in 'Maxxxine'.

(L to R) Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki in 'Maxxxine'. Photo: Starmaker Studios LLC.

While ‘X’ had the benefit of including an always watchable Brittany Snow and a pre-‘WednesdayJenna Ortega in its cast, and ‘Pearl’ gave us a look at David Corenswet before he donned Superman’s cape, ‘MaXXXine’ clearly has the most stacked ensemble of the three films.

Of course, it all revolves around Goth, whose mix of hard-bitten cynicism, sultriness, self-confidence, and arrogance are just as bracing here as her work in the previous two films (although her astounding performance in ‘Pearl’ may be hard to top). Between the ‘X’ trilogy and last year’s ‘Infinity Pool,’ Goth may very well have positioned herself as the reigning queen of indie horror, capable of fearless, nuanced work in roles that seem tailor-made for her slightly otherworldly presence.

This time out, however, she’s more than ably supported by the chewy antics of Kevin Bacon (doing a sweaty, Cajun-flavored Hank Quinlan in the clothes of Jake Gittes), and the magnificent Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Maxine’s agent with a mix of fatherly protectiveness and ‘done it all’ world-weariness. Halsey and Lily Collins’ appearances are too brief to really register (although Collins has a funny bit), and the detectives essayed by Cannavale and Monaghan are instantly fun to watch even if they don’t get a lot of time to develop. Elizabeth Debicki is always a welcome presence as well, although her scenes as the ambitious ‘Puritan II’ director are somewhat repetitive as she constantly reminds Maxine how important their movie is.

Final Thoughts

Mia Goth in 'Maxxxine'.

Mia Goth in 'Maxxxine'. Photo: Starmaker Studios LLC.

Overall, the ‘X’ trilogy (which could apparently expand to a fourth film, according to recent comments from West) has been a blast to watch, with the writer-director paying tribute to several different movie genres at once and getting the look and style right in all three films (while populating all three with some good old-fashioned gore and sex as well). And in Maxine herself, West and Goth have created an indelible new combination of genre femme fatale and scream queen.

But ‘X’ and ‘Pearl’ were far more focused that ‘MaXXXine,’ which tries to tie together so many elements – the rise of the slasher film genre, the moral panic over said movies by cultural watchdogs, the real-life panic over the Night Stalker and other "Satanic" murders, the battle of women to get recognition and respect in an exploitative industry – that it never quite achieves the grand finale it’s clearly aiming for. But in a funny way, that’s almost how it should be as well – we all know that the third movie in a trilogy never quite sticks the landing.

‘MaXXXine’ receives 7 out of 10 stars.


"Hollywood is a killer."
R1 hr 44 minJul 5th, 2024
Showtimes & Tickets

What is the plot of ‘MaXXXine’?

As adult film star Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) reaches for stardom in 1980s Hollywood with a role in a slasher film, a series of mysterious killings with possible connections to her past threaten her life and the lives of those around her. Maxine must confront the ghosts of her past and the forces conspiring against her if she wants to finally grasp what she’s desired for so long.

Who is in the cast of ‘MaXXXine’?

  • Mia Goth as Maxine Minx
  • Kevin Bacon as John Labat
  • Elizabeth Debicki as Elizabeth Bender
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Teddy Knight
  • Moses Sumney as Leon
  • Michelle Monaghan as Detective Williams
  • Bobby Cannavale as Detective Torres
  • Halsey as Tabby Martin
  • Lily Collins as Molly Bennett

Mia Goth in 'Maxxxine'.

Mia Goth in 'Maxxxine'. Photo: Starmaker Studios LLC.

Other Ti West Movies:

Buy Tickets: 'MaXXXine' Movie Showtimes

Buy Ti West Movies on Amazon