Hey folks, Barbarella here. I recently watched an ultra-low budget film simply titled “X,” that was touted as a "Hitchcockian erotic thriller." The film, shot almost entirely at a beautiful beach house in Big Sur, cost the millennial filmmakers only around $150,000 to make. At times, the low price-tag proves apparent, but despite those moments, I appreciate many elements of the film.
When a woman gets dropped off for a masked charity ball to be followed by an all-night, anything-goes sex party at the home of mysterious Christian King, known as X by the party goers, the questions emerge. The first is "Who is this woman?" Hints are dropped from the get-go that she has something potentially untoward in her past, but what that is, we won’t discover until later. I enjoy a movie that presents a bit of mystery, so I love the way the story unfolds, albeit it takes a bit of time to get to the truly engaging elements. While the initial mystery surrounds the woman whom we meet at the beginning, the tale is really about Christian, her secret fetish, and how she is perceived. It’s a story of actions and consequences. It pulls back the curtain, exposing the reality behind the illusion Christian creates for her party-goers.
Taking inspiration from Shakespeare, the five-act tale escapes the similarities to EYES WIDE SHUT and ventures into unexplored territory. Surprised and intrigued by the inclusion of a variety of unexpected moments, I find myself enjoying the film, although it proves not to be exactly what I was expecting.
Sure, I could see Hitchcock’s influence at times, but I do believe calling X an erotic thriller proves a bit of a misstep as it sets up the expectation that this film would elevate my temperature and leave me wishing I weren’t watching it alone. However, that didn’t happen; I didn’t find this film particularly erotic. Just because you show some masturbation, sex parties, flirtations, or even women seductively putting things into their mouths, that doesn’t necessarily create the key ingredient for eroticism: arousal. Erotic films need to build the tension and anticipation of something to come in order to elicit arousal, like sex should have foreplay. I realize there are those out there who have no concept of foreplay, bypassing it to get straight to the act. Perhaps those people would find X more erotic.
However, that being said, I legitimately enjoyed the film once it got going. Writers Scott Ramsey and Katherine Jost mix some engaging, thought-provoking elements into the story. Moments that, in a way, seem to come out of nowhere yet still fit perfectly into the puzzle that gets assembled before our eyes.
At times, the filmmakers spend too much time on certain camp elements that detract from the strong punches the story gives, and I would’ve loved some of those stronger moments to have been prolonged to increase the intensity and even discomfort. Some of the acting proves a bit spotty, but not to the point where it’s overly off-putting. Considering this is the first feature for almost everyone involved, I think it’s largely successful.
I appreciate that I did not predict all of the secrets that emerge through the film’s progression. I love that creatives still find ways to surprise me, and I am intrigued to see what these filmmakers have in store next. X may be less erotic than I expected from the trailer, but I still found it worth my time. The film is currently available on Digital and DVD.