Pearl is a prequel to X, a brilliant horror film released earlier this year, and reteams star Mia Goth and director Ti West. Goth stars as Pearl, a young woman who lives with her oppressive German mother (Tandi Wright) and ailing father (Matthew Sunderland). But a meeting with the projectionist (David Corenswet) at a local movie theater ignites dreams of stardom, and Pearl longs to escape her farm life. 

was an interesting meta-horror film, a horror film about other horror films, in its structure and visual references. Ultimately, inverted the moralistic judgements of other horror movies, and what did for the philosophy of classic horror, Pearl is doing traditional horror’s structure. In many horrors, we get an explanation for why the character will behave in cruel and awful ways and then we’ll get to see the character behaving cruel and awful ways; Annie (Kathy Bates) in Misery spends the first half of the film descending into her eventual torture of Paul (James Caan). But Pearl inverts that structure.  

In Pearl, the fall precedes the explanation. At the film’s midpoint, we see Pearl’s first act of violence, and the climax of the story is a full understanding of the psychology that motivated Pearl’s behavior – a scene that Goth expertly and movingly performs. This inverted structure indicates what West and Goth, who co-wrote the script, want to emphasize: rather than the bloody and grotesque killing, what’s important to these story-tellers is the psychology, the inner lives of these characters, and the profound psychic harm that oppressive environments inflict on young people. 

was primarily about sexuality and repression, and Pearl is continuing those ideas but in a less nuanced way. Pearl’s sexual repression is an aspect of her personality and circumstance, but it’s not developed, and the film doesn’t have much to say about it. 

As we reach the end of 2022, which has been a great year for horror, highlighted by and Barbarian, Mia Goth remains the Scream Queen of 2022, turning in two amazing performances in two of the year’s best horrors. Ti West knows how to make movies that intelligent horror fans will love, and Pearl is the latest example. And based on the end credits tease, there is even more to come from the X universe.