'Pearl' Is as Beautiful as It Is Disturbing

Directed by Ti West

Starring Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro

Photo courtesy of VVS

BY Tobias JegPublished Sep 27, 2022

Pearl the movie? Great. Pearl the character? She may look sweet, but she's just about the worst daughter anyone could ask for. Clearly, they did not have family counselling back in the day. I don't often enjoy the horror genre, but along comes a Ti West film, and he seems to prove me wrong each time. That was certainly the case with his breakout, 2009's House of the Devil, and also 2011's The Innkeepers.

With Pearl, a prequel to this year's X, he has the talented Mia Goth in the title role and as cowriter for a truly sinister tale. 

The year is 1918, and we're in the middle of a pandemic and a war (sound familiar?). Pearl is waiting for her doughboy to come home from the Western Front, and she's an aspiring starlet whose showbiz ambitions take her to some dark, dark places. Despite Pearl's deeply disturbing themes, the movie looks beautiful, and the cinematography reflects the Technicolor vibe of that era. At times it looks akin to The Wizard of Oz.

And like the Land of Oz, we've got a scarecrow and lots of corn. One of the many playful quirks of Pearl is that, even though the story is set in a pastoral Anytown, USA, they somehow have an alligator dwelling in their cornfield. Not exactly in line with a Midwest ecosystem, but it's awfully convenient for the sadistic Pearl.

If there's a parable here, it's that if you remain in place for too long, you'll rot to death. Pearl drives this metaphor home with repeated visuals of a decomposing piglet, who steals the show. But not enough can be said about Goth's performance. She knows how to make viewers feel uncomfortable and has the best "ugly cry" in all of Hollywood.

At its Midnight Madness premiere at TIFF this year, it was announced that Pearl was actually part of a mysterious trilogy. Hats off to West and Goth for such an ambitious undertaking, and I'll certainly be seeing the other chapters of this creepy saga. I will, however, not let my children grow up around pitchforks. Lesson learned there.
(VVS Films)

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