Hurst Hot Take: ‘Pearl’ slashes expectations of horror genre


Scout Najpaver, Contributing writer

What better way to kick off the start of Halloween month with a beautifully scary story? Look no further than the recently released “Pearl,” a psychological slasher film about a lonely farm girl in 1918 and her rise to stardom. Coming from director Ti West, this A24 film co-written by and starring Mia Goth takes elements from movies in the early 1900s. Saturated hues and a dusted film overlay may remind viewers of “The Wizard of Oz,” for example. These elements are crafted into a modern-day masterpiece with wickedly twisted themes contrasting the overly peppy surface gracefully.

The story begins with a shot of Pearl admiring herself in her bedroom mirror donning one of her mother’s dresses, basking in her self-proclaimed glory as the lights around her illuminate her figure like a marble statue. This is a glimpse into her mind, allowing us as an audience to see how highly she views her future and believes that she is meant for a greater life than what she is living in currently. The scene is soon interrupted by her mother Ruth barging in and scolding Pearl for wearing her dress, acting rather bitter towards her daughter for seemingly no reason. This tension between mother and daughter tightens through-out the film, serving as a pressure point for Pearl’s underlying temper and superiority complex to bubble over.

The picture does a wonderful job of accompanying Pearl’s optimistic and rose-tinted vision of her future with the unsettling reality of her situation. She is stuck on a farm during World War I caring for her fully disabled father while also helping her mother with chores around the farm. Pearl is perpetually stagnant in the middle of nowhere with civilization far away, and with her husband, Howard, not returning her letters as he is off at war, the circumstances create a perfect storm for Pearl to begin to lose her grip on reality.

As the movie progresses, we see Pearl having intense maladaptive daydreams about becoming a dancing star and touring the world. However, those visualizations develop portions where intrusive thoughts give a glimpse into how twisted her mind truly is. For example, in one portion of the film, there are two scenes that interchange—one where Pearl holds an egg in her hand and another depicts her husband returning from war. As she squeezes the egg, it bursts, alternatively showing her husband exploding into gory fragments in the other frame. These two scenes that go hand in hand allow us to understand further that Pearl is already un-well, and certainly she is too far gone to be helped.

This film perfectly combined everything that would make an old-fashioned horror flick nearly perfect, and Mia Goth’s unhinged portrayal of Pearl truly adds a new level of barbarity to the piece. From Pearl’s terrifying verbal outbursts to her violent impulses, the added mannerisms create an atmosphere that is unpredictable to not only the audience but the characters, as well.

To add, nearing the end of the film, Mia Goth performs a monologue that perfectly por-trays a girl who feels alone after everyone around her becomes afraid of who she really is. She feels remorse towards her impulsive actions, which then forces her to come to reality and realize the damage she caused around her due to her reaching for a dream that never existed. I recommend “Pearl” for those who are alright with some forms of gore and otherwise heavy topics being presented, but I believe that this movie would be great in tandem with the sequel “X,” also created by Ti West in collaboration with Mia Goth. Likewise, there is also an-other film to be released soon, “MaXXXine,” which will be the final film in the trilogy. If you enjoy slasher films with strong female leads, then “Pearl” would be a flawless movie to kick off the Halloween season