Horror is known for being a particularly self-referential genre of film and media in general. That’s why it’s not surprising to see new horror films overtly referencing and making homage to the great classics of the genre. Two good examples of this approach to filmmaking are the films X and Pearl by director Ti West. Both these films, X the original and Pearl the prequel, contain clear references to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Even if someone watching these films doesn’t know the 1974 film about a family of cannibals who mutilate a group of young adults, X and Pearl still work as excellent installments to the horror genre.
That said, it is still worth exploring these references because it helps not only add some context to the history of the horror genre but also expands the themes of the film and the characters. By referencing a horror classic, these new films create a cyclical nature of the genre’s themes that matches the cyclical nature of the characters’ arcs throughout these two films. X’s main character Maxine wants to be a huge star, just like the old lady who tries to murder her wanted to be when she was younger, which is explored in Pearl and creates a cycle of violence. So let’s take a look at these films’ references to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
X’s References to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Explained
X is about a group of adult film makers who rent a guest house on a derelict farm only to get killed off one by one throughout the night but the murderous, elderly couple who own the farm. The film is clearly inspired by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and is just littered with references to the slasher classic. It’s more than just that both films are set in the same time period and the same type of location. For one thing, the main cast arrives at what will become their eventual grave site by traveling together in a van that is used as a way to contrast the lifestyle of the victims and the perpetrators.
Another significant reference found in X is that this group of young people stumble upon a family that has been committing violent crimes for decades without ever raising suspicion with the police. There is a sense that not only is the farm creepy and isolated, but there’s a specific way in which the farm is presented (using the grainy 1970s-style cameras) that blends with the kind of isolation that is quiet, left behind and forgotten by the rest of society. It’s this abandonment that allows for such atrocities to continue and is a commentary on how changing society can leave behind people in need of help, which can either drive them to do terrible things or allow terrible things to fester and infect anyone who comes in contact with that kind of evil.