Ti Westit’s X is a great movie for many reasons: every element is relevant, from the script to the acting to the cinematography. The inventive slasher, set in 1979, centers on the conflict between the cast and crew of a porn movie, led by mia gothit’s Maxine, and the elderly couple whose property they live in. Pearl’s wife (also played by Goth) becomes jealous of the hot young filmmakers – violently. West’s use of sound and music is assured; he makes great use of retro songs like Cult of the blue oyster‘s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”, and enlisted Tyler Bates– frequent collaborator and composer of Marilyn Manson for dawn of the dead 2004 and The devil’s rejections– and Gothic singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe to compose the original score.
Watching XI guessed Bates was behind the music because it kinda reminded me of his scores for Rob Zombie Halloween and Halloween 2, especially his use of ethereal and haunting female vocals. In these films, Bates amplified the main theme and produced two beautifully creepy covers with Nan Vernon; Wolfe’s voice has a somewhat similar quality, especially when vocalizing wordlessly. Such voices are a time-worn tool in horror scoring – Michael Giacchino’s recent score for horror influence The Batman employed them too – and an undeniably effective one. Corn X goes beyond a composer featuring or sampling a singer; it’s a true collaboration between two talented musicians.
On the X score, Wolfe acts as Pearl’s musical voice, perfectly capturing her longing and rage. This is particularly evident on “My God,” “Pearl’s Lullaby» (one of the most melodic pieces of the soundtrack) and «Headlights.” This final track accompanies my favorite musical moment in the film, in which the diegetic “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” weaves in and out of the non-diegetic score and vocals. The music deftly underscores the shifting moods and textures of the scene, which begins with brutal violence but slips into a quiet and surprisingly graceful moment of reverie as Pearl performs a kind of ballet over her victim’s corpse.
This is the first time we’ve heard a substantial track from Wolfe and Bates’ cover of “Yes Yes Marya 1918 song about a soldier courting a French woman. The song is well-chosen for the film, reflecting Pearl’s relationship with both genders and her connection to a bygone but not forgotten past. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see it resurface in the next prequel, pearl.) It comes back throughout, repeated over and over like in a musical; Wolfe whispers the words to “Our secret” and the film ends with the full song.
Reflecting the dichotomy of the film itself, the soundtrack breaks away from the brooding synthesis of the creepy score and haunting vocals on the tracks accompanying the porn filming sequences, i.e. the cues”Damn finally” and “pumping gas.” They have a fun, flippant vibe that suits these times, evoking authentic “bom-chick-a-wow-wow” adult film music. But even on these tracks, Pearl’s volatile desire and rage are never far from the surface. “Damn finallyfinally returns to Wolfe’s eerie voice, his sexy/breathy voice turning into a scream as Pearl imagines herself in Bobby-Lynne (Brittany snow)’s place. “Pumping Gas” bleeds into Wolfe-dominated “Our Secret,” as do many songs.
The landmarks are presented out of film order, normally a pet peeve of mine – but here they seem to have been specifically arranged to function as a continuous experience for the listener. At first I wasn’t sure if XThe score of did work outside of the movie, but on second thought, it’s a pretty absorbing listen. Bates and Wolfe have created a unique musical tapestry worthy of such a rich and unique cinematic experience. I can’t wait to hear what they do next, whether it’s on pearl or another manufacture.