On the twenty-second day of Halloween: PEARL (2022)
Set in 1918, just six years after the sinking of the Titanic, Pearl (2022) is the surprise prequel to Ti West’s fantastic slasher X, this time following the serial killer Pearl (Mia Goth) deep into the events that began her 60-year rampage.
With a backdrop of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic intersecting with the COVID pandemic in real life, Pearl delves into the horror of extreme social isolation and the resulting psychological fractures that can snap a psyche into violence because of it. Humans are creatures of community, and Pearl’s forced isolation at the hands of her overbearing mother ends with a surprisingly high body count for a film that only has five main characters. Unless you include the dead animal count, which hikes the number up further.
With cinematography in homage to The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain, Pearl is the visual opposite of X with its bright colors and oversaturated backgrounds. If you knew nothing about the sequel, you’d think Pearl was a straightforward period piece with some quiet horror undertones.
But knowing where Pearl’s story ends up in the 1978 of X adds enough layers of depth to convert Pearl from a deranged killer to a sad woman whose dreams and hopes were dashed so thoroughly she decides to do the same for others through murder. Watching X after Pearl becomes a much more stomach wrenching experience than a terrifying one, as we see how Pearl’s bitterness and resentment have poisoned everything around her except her pet pond gator Theda.
Mia Goth is astounding in this role. And it definitely holds a candle to her dual performance of older Pearl and Maxine in X. She captures the full spectrum of Pearl’s humanity before she loses herself in rage and frustration. If horror movies got recognition from award shows, Goth would have swept them with her work here. Extraordinary performance, especially from someone relatively young. I would love to see Goth reprise this role at a few other time increments, like 1938 and 1958, to see what bonkers shenanigans Pearl gets up to as the decades roll on and she remains stuck on that damned farm.
The most vital message in Pearl is the importance of community, whether amid a pandemic or not. Regular and meaningful social contact is not just a salve for the soul in being and feeling connected to others. It is also a balm for the psyche that keeps us from hurting ourself. And potentially others.
✨Ziegfeld Follies/5 stars. Highly recommend getting therapy if you find yourself stewing in resentment.✨