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Stars: Mia Goth, Tandi Wright, David Corensweet, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Matthew Sunderland

Director: Ti West

There's a farm and a girl and a dance with a scarecrow, but nary a yellow-brick road in sight, in this blood-soaked prequel to the same director's X. It's 1918 somewhere in America's Deep South, and Pearl (co-producer and co-writer Goth) is trapped in a bleak farmhouse with a stern German mother (Wright) and a catatonic invalid father (Sunderland).

With husband away at the war, Pearl's desperation to escape her drudgery on the farm and become a dancer, combined with a desire to take life, is driving her to madness and mayhem. After pitchforking the farm goose, and feeding it to the local alligator, she chats with her husband's sister (Jenkins-Purro), who is blonde, blue-eyed and everything Pearl is not, including mentally balanced.

As the plot (not that there's much of it) goes on, it's clear that everyone around Pearl is doomed.

'Really, Mama,' says Pearl in a moment of rebellion and self-realisation, 'you have no idea what I'm capable of.'

Goth handles the title role well to begin with but, together with the film, goes over the top some way before the end. Despite fabulous colour photography by Eliot Rockett and an interesting first half, most of the film does take some sitting through.

Incidentally, the silent film Pearl adores has synchronised music and sounds, which wouldn't come to cinemas for several more years.

David Quinlan

USA/New Zealand 2022. UK Distributor: Universal . Colour by Pictureshop.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 16 Mar 2023