This ongoing pandemic has brought lots of obvious changes to people's lives, it has also dripped down onto other facets. One of which is that with all that is going on people don't think it is a good time to be either making films/releasing films, just look at big ones such as the latest James Bond which was (currently) delayed by around a year and a half from its intended release date. This long winded intro is just to say that due to not so many films being released there has been a bit of a drought on this humble blog. Personally, I do this for my own enjoyment, I have infinite films I could choose to review, and I have been doing so, however it also means that I am even more happy than usual to check out films sent my way for review consideration. The press releases describes Scott J. Ramsey's X both as a 'Hitchcockian Erotic Thriller' and a 'Queer Camp Melodrama'. Out of all those words it is only the 'Hitchcockian Thriller' ones that appealed to me, but as always I was prepared to give this a chance.
An exclusive invitation only masquerade ball takes place regularly at a secluded beachside mansion. On the surface it is a charity event, but after hours it descends into one big non-judgemental sex party. Stella (Eliza Boivin) has managed to sneak into the event for reasons unknown, but is soon spotted by the ball's founder, the mysterious Christian (Hope Raymond) who allows her to stay. Unknown to all is that Christian has a secret, one that threatens to ruin her reputation should it ever get out. After witnessing something very bad she is forced into a position of either letting her darkest secret get loose, or to let the perpetrator of the witnessed crime get away with what they have done.
X is split into five different acts and due to the downward spiral of the story this felt very much like a Shakespearean tragedy. There came a point where I began to question if this was actually a loose adaptation of one of his tragedies. Christian at the start of the film has taken on the persona of a King. She rules over her empire, remaining aloof from her 'subjects', only losing the facade when speaking to her trusted advisor and best friend Danny (Brian Smick). This leads to one of the more interesting early moments of X, the whole first act is shown from the perspective of Stella, but she is a false protagonist. From the second act onwards Christian is very much the star of the film, so much so that we even get monologues of her internal thoughts. Act II: The King is where the flaws begin to show with the new protagonist, this is a character whose biggest secret really is not an easy one to ignore, whatever her reasoning. I think this is why there becomes a sharp fall for her. As likeable as this weird character is, it can't be ignored that there is something quite wrong with her, and so logically the film has to show her fall from grace.
Anyone hoping for horror here will be disappointed, this doesn't try to be a horror and the thriller aspect comes into play very mildly halfway through Act III: The Queen. Look past the fact these all seem to be rich people with few cares in the world and you get a feeling of realistic day to day horror. Whatever you think of the protagonist it is hard not to feel horror for what she experiences. This is mostly a drama, and there was a feeling of The Great Gatsby with Christian, almost like she is holding these parties with the aim of finding something she is really missing in life. This middle act bleeds into Act IV: The Knave, the consequences of which lead to the films shortest act, The Malstrom. Despite a large cast there is a small bunch of relevant characters, I particularly thought Boivin, Smick and Raymond did well. It is all held up with good camera work and some interesting elements such as the screen splitting up 24 style to show a montage of a character doing different things all at the same time.
At two hours long X is something that was easy to fall into, I didn't get bored once, and it was a good idea to have such a flawed protagonist. As a 'Hitchcockian Thriller' though, that doesn't really quite fit. There are some thriller elements but they are very mild with the stakes never feeling too high. Maybe a bad fit on this blog, but X stood apart from the crowd, it may not be horror but it does something different in a style I appreciated. X was released in North America on 9th February on DVD and Digital. An 11 track 'electro-cabaret' album was released alongside this, At the Devil's Ball came out on 16th February on music platforms.