How the horror movie Pearl pulled off its daring climax

[Ed. note: Significant spoilers ahead for Pearl.]

Ti West’s . by the time of Pearl When it hits its third act, there aren’t too many surprises left in store — just awe and an overwhelming sense of horror film inevitability. that’s partly because Pearl West’s horror film prequel x, and anyone who saw that movie already knows where the title character (played once again by Mia Goth) ultimately ends up. Plus, the film makes it clear how ruthless and obsessive Pearl is, which determines her final move well in advance.

But there’s one particularly unorthodox surprise—the six-minute, single-shot monologue where she details her own psychosis and how she feels about the huge hole inside her that made her a killer. West holds a fixed camera to Goth’s face the entire time as she falters through the darkness of her own psyche, one emotion following another in her face as she tries to explain herself to someone who’s also there. Not there. It’s a shockingly effective piece of acting and filmmaking, while simultaneously being minimal and showy.

“From my side of the road, it wasn’t that complicated technically,” West tells WebMD. “These two people were sitting at a table in a studio. It’s a dream how to film something – nothing can go wrong.”

Ironically, though, most of West’s attention in shooting the scene went into making sure nothing went wrong. “I was trying too hard to stay out of Mia’s way, and trying to over-focus the crew,” he says. “Once we got into the monologue, no one was allowed to mess things up. If something was wrong—if a phone was ringing, or someone was on an iLine, or a mic was in shot—it needed to happen before the monologue could start, because if something went wrong, it would ruin the whole thing. will kill.”

Mia Goth as Pearl pushes her father's wheelchair to the end of a pier in front of a crocodile-infested pond at Pearl of T West

Photo: Christopher Moss / A24

“The stakes were really big,” West says. “It was like filming a stunt or an explosion, because for it to happen effectively everything has to be designed technically. So I was just trying my best to clear the way so that Mia could do what she was going to do.” was.”

Goth says that for his part, the main issue was overcoming his fear of failure. “The lead-up was nerve-racking,” she says. “I had never done anything like this before. It took a lot of preparation. I would go to my lines everyday. The last thing I wanted to do was the day we were going to shoot, it was still going on my lines If that was the case, I would have failed even before I stepped on the set.”

West set the scene for the final day of shooting, which Goth called “a genius idea”, which saw him put “all the intensity and emotional turmoil that comes from shooting” into the scene. She says he offered her an out: “Don’t worry, if you’re unable to do it all at once, we can always cut.” But she was determined to bring down the scene as she had imagined it. “We just stepped on the set and shot it. Once we realized, ‘Okay, we’ can do Do this,’ we just started having fun with it. Probably did it five, six times. ,

Usually, by the end act, horror movies unleash a flurry of bloodshed or destruction. West bakes that Pearlbut he actually found the goth monologue to be a catchy ending to the film.

“This movie needed a big climax,” he says. “Even though it’s so rich aesthetically, and so catchy and escapist in style, the climax has to be something intrinsic and psychological, and so much about Pearl’s thinking and feeling. And it turns out to be so literal: ‘Well, what if he told us what’s going on in his head? How do we organize it so it makes sense?'”

He wanted the monologue to be a single shot to “connect emotionally and psychologically with the audience, but also to be critical and provoke audience interest and dissection -“[like] That’s what we’re talking about right now, he says. He knew the shot would be memorable. “It’s such a great climax, but it’s such an unexpected climax. No one expected the climax of a horror movie to be a six-minute close-up of someone’s face. And that felt fresh and exciting.”

Pearl (Mia Goth) in Ti West's Pearl walks with her sister-in-law Misty (Emma Jenkins-Puro) on the edge of a giant dead cornfield in Pearl

Photo: Christopher Moss / A24

the west says that the whole x trilogy – x, Pearland the recently announced X sequel MaXXXine – “There’s a lot of focus on uncovering the craft of filmmaking, whether it’s camera directing, or production design, or makeup effects, or whatever.” x revolves around a pornographic film being shot by a group of ’70s amateur filmmakers hoping to take advantage of the era’s increasingly accessible camera technology and film distribution, and themselves in the process. rich and famous – and the film is shot and produced like one. Horror movie of the 70s. PearlEstablished in 1918, It is about Pearl’s passion for Hollywood to become the latest star of the decade’s booming cinema boom. And the film is shot and produced like a classic-era Technicolor melodrama, with a tone deliberately taken from Disney movies. first teaser for MaXXXine Promises a film set in the ’80s VHS boom, with VHS visual stylings and an ’80s synth score to match.

But West says he didn’t want the series’ focus on craft to be limited to technical aspects—he points out that acting is also an important craft for the film, and that the single-shot monologue “was a real way to showcase it.” Appears to be way. Craft.”

For Goths, that craft is also about going out of their way. The final shot of the film is another long, unbroken look of Pearl’s face, as she confronts and breaks down what has been done to her throughout the film—all while maintaining a big, artificial Hollywood smile that becomes progressively greater. becomes more unnecessary because she trembles and cries at the same time.

“Honestly, there wasn’t much thinking going on during that scene,” Goth says. “You just hope all the work that leads up to that scene […] You just hope that you’re set and that you’re able to let go of all that, and that somehow the remnants of all that [work] has made some kind of impression on you, so as long as you’re set up, you can be as present as possible. I try not to think too much during a scene. I think for an actor it can be a little dangerous, it takes you out of it. There’s just more to feel.”

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