Can You See Pearl Without Seeing X? Director Ti West Has The Answer [Exclusive]

I was not the biggest fan of Ti West's 1970s-set slasher film "X" from earlier this year. I really enjoyed the first half when it was an exploration of low-budget porn during the genre's golden age, and when it goes into full-on slasher mode, I start to check out (as I do with most slasher movies). When I learned that West had secretly made a prequel to "X," my interest wasn't too high, as the character that it would be exploring was the part of "X" I was least engaged with. But, hey, it stars Mia Goth, who I am a massive fan of, and I gave it a shot.

Not only did I prefer "Pearl" to "X," I just flat-out loved the film. Its style couldn't be more dissimilar from its predecessor, playing out as a classic Hollywood melodrama with a f*****-up core. West had me laughing and devastated in equal measure, and Goth could not have delivered a more arresting performance. When I began to recommend the film to people to check out during its opening weekend, I got the question "Do I need to see 'X' to enjoy it?"

I came down with a firm "No." This picture did make me want to go back and rewatch "X," as I think now it would be a more satisfying experience, but that would just be to satisfy my own curiosity. The two movies are so stylistically distinct, and "Pearl" exists as its own singular vision. As it turns out, writer/director Ti West designed the two films this way, making each film their own experience.

Enriching, but not necessary

Of course, Ti West would prefer you to watch both of his movies, and considering a third entry in the series, "MaXXXine," is on the way, that would probably be ideal. But if "X" came out when you weren't as comfortable going to a cinema as you are now, it's not like missing an entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. West told /Film's own BJ Colangelo:

"You don't have to see 'X' to like 'Pearl,' it enriches it if you do. And you don't have to see 'Pearl' to like 'X,' but it enriches it if you do. But it was always meant to be standalone movies, That it's like 'Manhunter' and 'The Silence of the Lambs.' There's three 'Silence of the Lambs' movies, and Hannibal Lecter is the through line, but they're not directly connected. That's, in a way, how I thought about it. I'm optimistic that people will come see 'Pearl,' who maybe were like, 'Oof, "X," porn slasher, that's too much for me.' But then, they'd see 'Pearl' and be, 'Oh, but this was right up my alley.' So, in many ways, hopefully, it broadens it for people. Or it brings people in to watch 'X' that maybe they wouldn't have, because now they have a new interest in it."

I firmly believe every franchise entry shouldn't be dependent upon you seeing every chapter. Filmmakers lose themselves by paying off something from a previous movie or setting up for a future one, making less-satisfying dramatic experiences in the moment. They're only interested in perpetuating your own mythology and not serving your story and characters properly. The connections need to be the toppings — not the meat — of this film sandwich. Ti West gets that, and "Pearl" is a great Reuben... err, prequel.