Macabre…ish Horror Review: Pearl
Pearl lives in fantasy land, playing dress up in her mother, Ruth’s (Tandi Wright), old dresses and playing make believe in the barn. After a lively performance, Pearl impulsively stabs a goose to death with a pitch fork and takes it to the pond and feeds it to the alligator that lives there.
Pearl is married to a man named Howard (Alistair Sewell) but he’s fighting overseas and she has to pick up the slack at home because all the farm hands are gone and her dad (Matthew Sunderland) is infirm and paralyzed and needs constant care. One day, while in town to get medicine for her dad, she also watches a show and the projectionist (David Corenswet) takes a liking to her and gifts her a still from the movie.
On her way home, Pearl, takes a detour into a corn field and she finds a scarecrow, takes it off it’s frame and dances with it. She is fully engulfed in fantasy, after a kiss, she sees the projectionist’s face and screams at the scarecrow that she’s married. But then proceeds to dry hump the thing.
Upon arriving home, her mother sends her to do her chores. While bathing, Pearl thinks her father might’ve died, she presses and releases his neck, listening to his breath stop and start. Later at dinner, Ruth informs Pearl that they are in survival mode and have to ration their food.
Pearl’s wealthy in-laws come to visit. Her sister-in-law, Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro), tells her about a dance troupe audition at the church. The troupe travels the state to dance ans ‘spread merriment’. Mitsy plans to try out and Pearl is interested but before she does, she sneaks out to visit the projectionist. He plays her a film no one else has seen. It’s a French adult film.
They talk about Pearl living her dreams and she wishes her parents would just die so she can be free. He plans to go back overseas to make adult films after the pandemic. Afterward, she sneaks back home and she hears her mother sobbing.
The next morning, Pearl, pushes her dad out to the pond with the intention of feeding him to the alligator but her mother interrupts her. Pearl asks her mother why she hates her. And Ruth just tells her that life rarely turns out the way you want and to be prepared for that. She pushes her husband back to the house.
Pearl finds a clutch of alligator eggs and while squeezing one, imagines a man blowing up. Her mother later, demands she stay in the bunkhouse to quarantine because she’s been out socializing. Pearl tells her mother about the audition and that she intends to do it, she has to try. Ruth then informs her that she’s seen what Pearl is up to when she thinks she’s alone and that she’s afraid of her and what she’ll do.
This conversation devolves into a tirade where she unloads all of her frustrations and now Pearl knows how her mother truly feels about everything. They end up fighting and her mother’s hem catches fire in the fireplace and as she goes up in flames, Pearly puts her out with a big pot of boiling corn.
After dragging her mother to the basement, she travels in the storm to the projectionist. She spends the night then he drives her home. Pearl finds her dad where she left him, at the dining table, still in his chair and suffering.
After quickly cleaning up some of the evidence of last night’s fight. Pearl invites the projectionist in and while they’re making out, they hear thudding. He goes to find the noise and she says it’s the dog. Finally out in the barn, she proceeds to freak him out and he makes his excuses to leave. But she notices the change and confronts him, becoming enraged. As he starts his car to leave, she impales him, in a fury, with the pitchfork.
Then Pearl goes to the basement where her mother is still alive and kicks her down the stairs. Afterward, she cleans up her terrified dad, gets dressed for the audition and smothers him. Then she puts the projectionist back in his car and pushes it into the pond.
She then rides her bike to the church for the audition and it goes terribly. She’s rejected and after begging for another chance, she falls apart and has to be dragged off stage. And outside she bawls her eyes out. Mitsy takes her home and notices the suckling pig she and her mother brought over earlier, is outside covered in insects. Pearl confesses to Mitsy that there must be something wrong with her. Something is missing that everyone else has.
Then she proceeds to overshare massively and creep out Mitsy, who is stunned silent. And when she tries to leave, it seems ok but it feels dangerous. As Mitsy’s walking away, Pearl comes out, grabs an axe and chases her down.
After cutting Mitsy up and tossing her in the pond. Pearl sets the table with her dead parents and that putrid pig. A huge military truck arrives that evening and Howard hops off. He arrives to the gruesome dinner and Pearl, who is completely out of her mind.
Pearl is the prequel to X and second in the X series by Ti West. The third planned installment MaXXXine is in development. The film is a disturbing fantasy horror that centers around Pearl and her increasingly fragile mental health and sense of self. Her problem solving skills devolve and collide with her fascination with death. And the more she kills, the more fractured she becomes. Her new coping and problem solving tactic, unsurprisingly, makes her more alone and makes the point that the instinctual fear her victims had before she killed them, was right. It is a horrifying and fascinating movie.
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