a girl in a red dress holding an axe in front of a red barn
Courtesy A24

Pearl is director Ti West’s technicolor nightmare, an origin-myth prequel for his previous slasher film, X. The film focuses on the eponymously named Pearl (Mia Goth), a young girl stuck on her family’s farm with dreams of seeing herself on the big screen. But Pearl is sick of feeling alone. Her husband left her to fight overseas in World War I, so she finds herself at her parents’ mercy. Her father (Matthew Sunderland) suffered a terrible stroke, rendering him paralyzed, and her mother (Tandi Wright) rules the farm with a cold, iron fist, squashing Pearl’s dreams and refusing to let her mingle with others because of the Spanish Flu. 

This gruesome fantasy-esque film introduces Pearl among her best friends: her farm animals. Similar to Snow White, Pearl voices her dreams to her farm animals before performing a joyful dance routine. However, it becomes abundantly clear that this is no fairy tale. Interrupted by an unnamed goose, Pearl slips into a horrifyingly stern gaze, gripping the pitchfork firmly before killing the farm animal—the first instance (but definitely not the last) where Pearl’s simmering rage boils over into feverish violence. From this point onward, Pearl slowly succumbs to her brutal delirium, transfixed by her dancing aspirations. 

Without Goth’s stunning performance, Pearl would likely fall into horror obscurity. Goth’s reprisal is unparalleled, personifying a terrifying angle of Hollywood escapism and fleshing out the character of Pearl depicted in the movie’s predecessor. Her impressive performance arrives at its climax during the final monologue, when Pearl divulges her murderous tale to her sister-in-law, in lieu of her absent husband. Goth’s chilling delivery is simultaneously comical and tearful, providing depth to Pearl. Together, West and Goth created an inventive, unique slasher genre, and a movie worth rewatching several times. R, 102 min.

Music Box Theatre, wide release in theaters