Everything You Need to Remember From ‘X’ and ‘Pearl’ Before Seeing ‘MaXXXine’

SPOILER WARNING: This story discusses plot details from “X” and “Pearl.”

Maxine f——ing Minx is ready to take ‘1980s Hollywood, so get ready to hear “I’m a star!” one more time as the third and final installment in Ti West’s horror trilogy hits theaters on July 5.

More from Variety

“MaXXXine” centers around an adult film star and aspiring actress named Maxine (Mia Goth) who finally makes it big with her first feature film. She’s the only survivor of the massacre that took place in the trilogy’s opener, “X,” but now, she’s the target of another killer—the Night Stalker. With Maxine and her friends’ lives in danger yet again, the horror of her past begins to unravel.

Before heading to the theaters for “MaXXXine,” here’s what you need to know from West’s past films:

“X” (2022)

The first two films in the trilogy were shot back-to-back with “X” released in March 2022.

Set in 1979, the movie focuses on an adult film crew who arrive at a rural farmhouse that’s home to an elderly couple, Howard (Stephen Ure) and his wife Pearl. The group intends to shoot their amateur porn film “The Farmer’s Daughters” on the farm, with Maxine and Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), both of whom work at a Houston burlesque club, set to star. Maxine’s boyfriend, the middle-aged cowboy stud Wayne (Martin Henderson) is producing the film and running the shoot. Jackson (Scott Mescudi, a.k.a. Kid Cudi, who also executive produces) is the one male porn actor in the group and Bobby-Lynne’s boyfriend. RJ (Owen Campbell) is the director and his girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) is on hand to hold the boom mic.

But as day turns to night, they’re targeted by the old woman, whose reasons for murdering the crew one by one aren’t fully revealed until the next film — save for the point that Pearl looked just like Maxine when she was young. (Fun fact: Goth also plays old Pearl, but is unrecognizable with the heavy make-up and prosthetics.)

“It’s a movie made with genuine mood and skill and flavor,” Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote in his review, which examines the film as an homage to the 1974 classic “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” Where most “Chain Saw” knockoffs never “seem remotely like a movie from the grainy outlaw ’70s,” Gleiberman explained, West’s film “actually achieves the look and atmosphere of 1979: the free-ride waywardness, the needle drops (Pablo Cruise, “In the Summertime”), the local televangelist barking at his stuffy minions on a black-and-white TV set.”

He concludes that “X” is no “Chain Saw,” but it “is a wily and entertaining slow-motion ride of terror that earns its shocks, along with its singular quease factor, which relates to the fact that the demons here are ancient specimens of humanity who actually have a touch of… humanity.”

“Pearl” (2022)

In this film — released six months after “X,” with the tagline “the x-traordinary origin story” — Goth gives the performance of her career as she dives into Pearl’s backstory.

Set in 1918, the prequel depicts a young Pearl and her upbringing in Texas — which is difficult, to say the least. She has to abide by strict rules from her German immigrant mother Ruth (Tandi Wright) and take care of her invalid father (Matthew Sunderland). Plus, Pearl’s husband Howard (Alistair Sewell) is away serving in World War I, leaving her with little support as she displays troubling signs of psychopathy, abusing her father in secret and killing farm animals.

Pearl’s hopes and dreams of becoming a famous actress or chorus girl aren’t supported by her mother, but they are encouraged by the town’s local projectionist (David Corenswet), who takes a liking to her. After a heated argument with her mother, Pearl turns homicidal and kills her, along with her father and her new lover.

Shortly after, Pearl attends a dance audition at church with her sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro), and despite her rousing performance, she is dismissed by the judges because they’re looking for a fresh-faced blonde dancer. “Please I’m a star!” Pearl famously cries out.

To calm her distraught sister-in-law, Mitsy takes Pearl home and invites her to practice what she would say to Howard to make her feel better. There, Goth launches into a nine-minute monologue that Variety’s William Earl described as an “acting masterclass” deserving of Oscar attention.

“The truth is, I’m not really a good person,” she laments during the beginning of her monologue. It’s a stinging and unsettling speech — as Pearl describes her loneliness and depression with her husband away at war, and is candid about a miscarriage, her infidelity, and murderous rages — and its ebbs and flows demonstrate Goth’s dexterity as a performer.

“Goth flexes every muscle during the film, nailing moments both absurd and sincere,” Earl writes. “For every shattering monologue, there’s a comedic beat around the corner, or simply a startling visual of Pearl skipping along wielding a bloody axe.”

What happens after the monologue? Mitsy becomes Pearl’s last victim — at least in that film.

“MaXXXine” (2024)

The final film in the trilogy sees Goth reprise her role as Maxine Minx, who has chased her dream of movie stardom to Hollywood and finally gets her big break. But she can’t escape her past.

“It’s the biggest story of the three with the highest stakes,” Goth teased in a January 2023 interview with Variety. “Maxine has gone through so much at this point. So when we find her in this new world, she’s just a force to be reckoned with and she goes through some pretty wild adventures.”

Goth is joined in the slasher film by Kevin Bacon, Bobby Cannavale, Elizabeth Debicki, Moses Sumney, Michelle Monaghan, Lily Collins, Halsey and Giancarlo Esposito. Watch the full trailer below.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.