‘MaXXXine’ review: Ti West’s trilogy closer gives Mia Goth’s wannabe star the send-off she deserves

Justin Lubin/A24

Mia Goth stars in “MaXXXine,” the third film in a trilogy from director Ti West.


In keeping with the current era of cinema, even a slasher/porn-centric franchise gets a “universe” these days, as “MaXXXine” concludes an unlikely trilogy from writer-director Ti West and star Mia Goth. The film is in a class of its own for its casting, working best as an ode to Hollywood’s ‘80s films and makeup rather than a mystery built around its driven starlet-to-be.

That would be Goth’s Maxine Minx, an adult-film actress who survived a rural massacre during a remote shoot in “X,” the roots of which were explored in the prequel “Pearl.” Now in L.A., Maxine is trying to make it in legitimate movies (“Acting is acting,” she says confidently during her audition), even if that movie is a horror flick that sparks protests and accusations of Satanism outside the studio.

As she chases that big break and repeats her mantra, “I will not accept a life I don’t deserve,” Maxine also finds that someone seems to be after her, who has put a private investigator (Kevin Bacon, boiling over the top) on her trail, who is digging up memories from her past. That at least provides some connective tissue to “X,” and motivations beyond the fact that the title character is really, really unhappy in the way that “final girls” often are.

The danger also comes at a time when the city is on high alert, given that it’s 1985 and the Night Stalker killer is still at large. Not that Maxine’s porn friends seem particularly edgy as they scrape and claw, looking for people with the power to advance their careers.

Justin Lubin/A24

Halsey and Mia Goth in “MaXXXine.”

In addition to Bacon, the cast includes Halsey, Giancarlo Esposito, “The Crown” star Elizabeth Debicki, and Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan as a pair of detectives eager to find out what Maxine knows about the crime wave around her — which only fuels her skepticism and can-do attitude, and she applies that same relentless pursuit of fame to her self-defense.

Goth once again turns her alter ego into a force of nature, but the film’s simplest pleasures come from its evocation of the era, with songs like “Bette Davis Eyes” and the hit “St. Elmo’s Fire,” as well as Angelyne billboards and nods to films like “Dressed to Kill.”

While box office sales have shown some positive signs of recovery this summer, horror has remained a reliable source of revenue since the start of the pandemic, thanks in part to the quality of films like “X” and “Pearl,” which are outselling future blockbusters so long as they deliver the requisite thrills.

West mixes some humor in with the gore here, though the payoff is unfortunately not as high as the buildup. By then, however, “MaXXXine” has delivered enough nostalgia for its genre to warrant a stroll through the alleys, and not coincidentally, the showcase and send-off the Goth character deserves.

“MaXXXine” opens in U.S. theaters on July 5. The film is rated R.

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