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Earlier this year, Ti West released his horror movie X, which was shot one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, just before the wide availability of vaccines, taking advantage of New Zealand’s rigorous quarantine standards and relatively contained virus. The movie, about a small crew attempting to shoot a porn movie on a secluded farm in 1979, is a recognizably pandemic-related production in its limited locations and modest cast size, but that’s ultimately just a behind-the-scenes tidbit—one of many COVID-era productions where the precautions and nerves are allowed to stay mostly offscreen. X has plenty else closer to front of mind, too, about the joys of low-budget filmmaking, the desperate drive of young flesh and corresponding frustrations of old age, and how society expects sexual desire to dwindle with time, especially in women. (It’s also, somehow, a wildly entertaining slasher picture.) There was no need to make it a pandemic movie, too. But it turns out, West and his star Mia Goth did actually make a pandemic movie out in New Zealand; they just didn’t tell anyone until X was all done.
Pearl, a prequel of sorts to X, offers an origin story for that movie’s principal killer (played by Goth in old-age makeup in the film, the better to double her with Maxine, the aspiring porn actress still in full command of her youthful heat). It doesn’t best X, but it certainly out-pandemics it: West and Goth co-wrote the movie quickly during their New Zealand arrival quarantine, preparing to take advantage of the X sets by placing Pearl largely on the same farm sixtysomething years earlier. Beyond that practicality, though, Pearl is a COVID movie in its soul, even if the movie doesn’t exactly come out and say it.
Continue reading PEARL is a pandemic horror movie, but not how you might think