X. No Sex For Old Men

Contrary to the catchy title – don’t let it encourage you to put a cross on the film

Jakub Piwoński

13 January 2023


At one time, the iconic Boogie Nights was a film that overthrew some industry taboos, because it showed how these shameful films are made, which apparently no one watches, but everyone peeks out of the corner of the eye. Now imagine another meta-story in this spirit – a movie within a movie, also porn, but at the same time lined with fear. Here’s… X.

There was a time when having sex on screen wasn’t a given. As a result, those who felt the potential in making the first pornographic films quickly saw that it was a profitable business. In film X, we move to 1979, i.e. to the times after the social and sexual revolution in the USA. A few years earlier, in 1972, the famous Deep Throat changed a lot in the subject of soft-porn, sealing the sexploitation trend already present in the cinema (or its side, less glorious line). There was nothing to hide anymore, taboos fell, so the camera bluntly, with due focus, began to show the act of love in all its glory and with all the details.

One of the protagonists of the film X got wind of the interest in this. He gathers a film crew, packs them into a van and sets off in search of a convenient place to shoot a “nature” film. They find themselves on the farm of an old redneck who rents them a shack. It would seem that everything from now on will be arranged in accordance with the script prepared by amateur filmmakers. There is a set, there is a camera, the actors are ready, what is to stand, stands – it’s time for love. But an old man has an old wife. And she felt like a bit of excitement and .. blood.


Signs of artistry

Associations with such films as The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn or, of course, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre come to mind spontaneously. However, the key to understanding the nature of the show by Ti West (previously known to me from the novella V/H/S – I recommend it) is the figure of a young cameraman who has the dubious pleasure of shooting close-up scenes. He puts a lot of piety into his work, considering it in terms of art. According to him, the topic doesn’t matter – everything, even the biggest crap, even pornography, can be shot in such a way that it bears the hallmarks of artistry. isn’t it?

I am convinced that this is a hidden message sent in our direction by the director. You can often see on the screen that the creators put a lot of effort into building tension through the composition of individual scenes, the way of framing and, which may seem surprising, editing. These are flavors that give the impression that even in a hackneyed space (which is undoubtedly the convention of a slasher) you can get something extraordinary. For me, the model of this style is the great scene of bathing in the pond of one of the characters. Like nothing, like a banana. The girl jumps into the water naked to get refreshed. But somewhere in the distance lurks an alligator. How did Ti West decide to build tension in this scene? He hung the camera motionless in the air, filming the girl returning to the pier. After a while, a swimming alligator enters the frame, and the viewer starts biting his nails from nerves, despite the fact that the situation is observed from a distance.


Devil's space

There are much, much more such nuances in X, which is one of the valuable points of this production. Another is the second bottom, which is meticulously outlined in the tone of this story from the very beginning of the screening. Yes, so we’re dealing with a horror movie that isn’t stupid horror. The best scene of the film is in my opinion the dialogue scene – paradoxically, for a horror movie. The one where, after the intensive “work”, the film crew sits down to dinner together. It turns out that one of the girls, who until now passively participated in the whole project (as a sound engineer, she only cared about the technical stuff), while supervising the actors’ frolics, became interested in participating in them herself. Of course, this raises the surprise of the team, but above all, it raises the surprise of her boyfriend – the operator, who, as a result, refuses to continue the work.


Her decision to participate in the film is due to the fact that the actors assured her that it was all really just a game and only sex. Well, or only? This leads to a very interesting dilemma, calling into question the existence of a separation between emotions and intimacy itself. In addition, sex is presented here as a tool of demoralization. In individual scenes, a certain preacher appears on television every now and then, who talks about rampant corruption. The set of a pornographic film thus appears as the space of the devil himself. The truth is, however, that regardless of attitude, age, conscience, each of us thinks and dreams about intimacy, of which sex is the most tangible form.


The closeness resulting from natural needs is clearly missing a character who is supposed to arouse fear in this story. An older, rather unkempt, dingy and terrifying-looking woman immediately picked up on what was going on in the barracks. First, he passively watches what is happening outside the window. He knows that his best years are behind him. Instead of staring in the mirror, she prefers old photos, which are memories of her youth. Watching debauchery, she becomes tempted to join in, but she knows it’s not possible. So it kills. Her actions – brutal murders – have a purely sensual subtext. They are a way of venting certain deeply hidden emotions.

Film X surprised me on several levels. Tension builds up over the beaten hour, before the actual third act, which is drowned in a pool of blood. If you’ve set yourself up for sex, you’ll get it. If you prefer solid violence and slasher convention – the moment will come. The most surprising thing, however, is that this clichéd story was filmed in an unconventional way. In addition, under the layer of cliché, it hides an interesting commentary. I don’t look at X through the prism of horror porn, which it seemed at the stage of promotion. It would be very damaging to this project. In my opinion, it is primarily a film about the hardship of escaping from lust, which does not fade despite the passage of time, and about the sadness of old age, which in this case turns out to be the end of the body, but not the mind.

Contrary to the catchy title – don’t let it encourage you to put a cross on the film. Worth watching!

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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