Too often in the age of half-baked, useless Marvel post-credits scenes, it’s not worth lingering in the movie theater until the house lights come back on. But if you were determined enough to stay until the last of the credits rolled when seeing X, Ti West’s fantastic tribute to ’70s horror from earlier this year, you were rewarded with a technicolor treat. A teaser trailer for the film’s secret prequel, Pearl, popped up on the screen for one minute of Americana-laced, pitchfork-stabbing excitement.
Four months later, the film’s full trailer has finally debuted, and it looks like a bloody good time. Just as X was a stylistic homage to grainy ’70s porn flicks, Pearl takes inspiration from its setting by placing Mia Goth inside the kind of richly-hued, vivid filmmaking that last dazzled audiences when Dorothy was skipping down the yellow brick road on her way to Oz.
Set in WWI-era Texas, Pearl explores the backstory of the elderly villain from X—also played by Goth, in surprisingly convincing old-age makeup—who stalked and killed the cast and crew of a homemade porno shooting at her ranch. Even in her old age, Pearl was unassumingly feisty, spry, and just plain evil, so it’s no surprise that she’d been just as wicked in her youth.
The trailer opens with Pearl at her bedside, hands folded in prayer. “Please Lord, make me the biggest star the world has ever known,” she pleads to the heavens, “so that I make it far, far away from this place.” Pearl is residing at her family’s bucolic ranch house (the same one where the massacre in X took place), where she cares for her catatonic father and stern mother. “If only they would just die,” she says to a suitor before a shot of her wheeling her father out to the nearby swamp, weighing the option to make him an alligator’s breakfast.
When a film crew comes to town looking to scout girls for a production, Pearl sees her ticket out, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get it. It seems Pearl has always had the lethal obsession with being adored that triggered her rampage in X, and her origin story probes into those bloody beginnings.
Forced to contend with other local girls from the nearby town for the role in the film—as well as the overbearing hand of her possessive mother—Pearl sets off on a terrifying examination of self that finds her equal lust for power and pleasure warring with deadly results. What follows is a catch-all of unforgettable horror imagery: exploding mailmen, maggot-infested rotten meat on a dinner platter, sex with a scarecrow, a tub filled with dead geese, and a whole lot of pitchforks.
Judging by the trailer alone, Pearl will be a proper star vehicle for Mia Goth, who shined in her dual roles in X (where she also played Maxine, a similarly determined-for-stardom porn actress) and has become one of Hollywood’s most compelling presences. It’s her latest in a string of unforgettable scream-queen roles, including 2018’s Suspiria remake and 2016’s A Cure for Wellness. As this younger version of Pearl, she’s once again expertly running the spectrum from endearing to horrifying, flipping the switch with a dead-eyed smile.
Even with few lines and no proper backstory, Goth and Ti West managed to turn Pearl into a stunningly sympathetic villain in X, leaving audiences walking away from the film questioning the ways that society rejects and discards the aging and elderly. West told The Daily Beast in March that he credits Goth with selling the character and her story, keeping a fun slasher from ever feeling silly or laughable.
Pearl was shot back to back with X and kept under wraps until the film’s debut at SXSW earlier this year, and West told The Daily Beast that plans are already in the works for a third chapter to cap off a trilogy, making it A24’s first proper franchise. Wherever Pearl (or one of her lookalike extensions) ends up next, it’s a safe bet that the body count will keep rising as she tries to slice her way to her dreams. She’s not wrong when she screams it out in the trailer’s final moments, the whole world is going to know her name!
Pearl hits theaters September 16.