MaXXXine review: "If you've come for carnage, this slasher will satisfy your bloodlust"

Mia Goth and Halsey in MaXXXine
(Image: © A24)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The final act loses its way, but in the main West wraps his slasher trilogy in satisfying style, putting a blood-soaked, Hollywood-branded bow on his eras-spanning saga.

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"The past ain’t finished with you, Maxine" yells Kevin Bacon’s odious private dick in writer/director Ti West’s trilogy-closing slasher tale. Following last year’s prequel Pearl, MaXXXine sees Mia Goth reprising her wannabe porn star character from franchise starter X (2022). 

Now successful in adult entertainment circa 1985, Maxine wants to take a crack at a legitimate acting career. After nailing an audition, attended by Elizabeth Debicki’s ballsy director, Maxine gets the lead in horror sequel The Puritan II.  

West’s fictional story rubs shoulders with '80s history: real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez, a.k.a. the Night Stalker, is on the loose. In a world of sleazy strip bars and peep shows, sex workers that Maxine knows become victims; detectives Williams (Michelle Monaghan) and Torres (Bobby Cannavale) aim to take down the killer. 

Maxine is no stranger to violence herself, as shown in a grim early sequence where she’s trapped in an alley by a knife-wielding predator dressed up like Buster Keaton. This lookalike will soon regret ever following her…

Things take a twist when Bacon’s sleazy PI tracks her down under instruction from his wealthy client, who has an unusual interest in Maxine. Who is he? Well, that’s one of the questions hanging over the film (though the answer isn’t quite as interesting as you’d hope). What works better is the mid-'80s atmosphere conjured by West, from billboards nodding to St. Elmo’s Fire to a soundtrack that includes ZZ Top and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Pushing the showbiz homages further, West stages scenes on the Universal backlot (the Psycho house makes an appearance) and serves meta-exchanges about actors who got their starts in horror films. All this is fun, if slightly blatant in its nostalgia baiting. But it’s a shame that one seemingly key subplot is a red herring and that not all the casting entirely works (Giancarlo Esposito, for one, as Maxine’s agent/lawyer, is shackled with the most ridiculous wig you’ll ever see). 

Still, Bacon and Debicki relish their roles, while Goth has roaringly good fun as the title character, a woman who gives as good as she gets. And if you’ve come for the carnage - faces are branded, eyes are slashed, bodies crushed - then MaXXXine should satisfy your bloodlust. 

MaXXXine is released in UK cinemas and US theaters on July 5. 

Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.