Film Review: Pearl – 8/10

‘Seems like there’s something missing in me that the rest of the world has...’

I’ve written before about 2022 being a landmark year for horror, so I won’t waste any more time on that thesis here. What I will add is that each of the big horror films to drop this year have had a talking point. The violence of Terrifier 2, the twist in Barbarian, the shift away from Michael Myers in Halloween Ends – the list goes on. In this landscape, it’s becoming more and more difficult for a horror film to stand out. Pearl, Ti West’s rush sequel to his surprise hit X is as good as any of the films mentioned, and the talking point? It has to be a flawless performance from Mia Goth. Breath-taking…

Pearl (Goth) is a small-town farm girl at the end of World War One with big dreams of becoming a dancer. Her severe German mother Ruth (Tandi Wright) and her unnamed infirm father (Matthew Sunderland) have other ideas. Namely, forcing Pearl to live a life of drudgery and servitude around the farm. Pearl’s only friends and confidantes are her affluent sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro) and a handsome local projectionist (David Corenswet).

Now, because I am an idle pig, the two paragraphs above were written after I had returned home from the cinema, and yet this very paragraph that you are perusing now has been written months later. This is not an optimal technique for a film review. And yet, here we are. I will try my best to crank the old monkey brain into gear to remember why I loved Pearl so much in the first place.

First off, Goth, who was excellent playing a dual role in X, is even better here, delivering an iconic horror performance that instantly places her alongside such luminaries as Sissy Spacek, Shelley Duvall and Kathy Bates in the annuls of great female horror performances. While Corenswet and particularly Tandi Wright are also great, this is very much Goth’s film, and the character that she and director Ti West have created here really is one for the ages. As an audience, we are smitten with Pearl. We want to save her. We want her to succeed. We are also disgusted by her. Scared of her. In awe of her. It really is an astonishing performance.

Pearl was snuck into theatres with little fanfare and wowed horror fans with its daring and innovative approach. If West’s mooted threequel MaXXXine is as good as the two films that preceded it, we are looking at one of the greatest horror trilogies ever.