Shropshire Star

Film Talk: Latest Movie Releases – Mia Goth is back for a Pearl of a slasher sequel

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya! While The Banshees of Inisherin was staunchly denied Oscars justice, it remains a fine St Patrick’s Day today, and, indeed, the Academy Awards weren’t all bad news for the lads and lasses of the Emerald Isle.

An x-traordinary origin story: Mia Goth and David Corenswet star in Pearl, Director Ti West’s luxuriously overwrought prequel to 2022 horror film X

While Martin McDonagh’s nine-times-nominated masterpiece sadly left the Dolby Theatre empty-handed on Sunday night, An Irish Goodbye picked up the gong for Best Live Action Short Film, meaning that at least a bit of appreciation was shown for black comedy and the Irish flair for it.

Elsewhere at the Oscars, Everything Everywhere All At Once went home with pretty much everything, everywhere, all at once, including Best Picture, Best Director and – it has to be said – a very well-deserved Best Actress award for Michelle Yeoh.

Brendan Fraser however sealed the deal on the start of his ‘Brenaissance’ by scooping up the Best Actor gong for his turn in The Whale, and I genuinely expect to see his face on these pages a lot more from now on. Welcome back George, George, George of the Jungle... just watch out for that tree, sir.

If awards season has done anything though, it’s whetted our appetite for cinema in all its forms in all their glory. And topping the bill this week, we have an offering that likes this glory to be gory.

A follow up to last year’s slasher-shocker X, Pearl is here to tell the ‘x-traordinary origin story’ of the elderly antagonist played by Mia Goth. The young star is back in the role – though this time without the prosthetics – to bring us the tale of how Pearl started down the rather grisly road that turned her into a murderous, pitchfork-wielding octogenarian. Time to strengthen those stomachs, folks. Let’s take a look...

PEARL (15, 94 mins)

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)

There’s no place like an unhappy home. Director Ti West’s luxuriously overwrought prequel to his 2022 horror film X is a disorienting Technicolour fever dream that repeatedly refers to The Wizard Of Oz.

Except here his Dorothy is mentally unstable, wilfully duplicitous and would prefer to greet Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion with a blood-smeared axe than a wicker basket containing Toto.

Fittingly subtitled An X-traordinary Origin Story, Pearl cranks up the horror-saturated melodrama from its heavily stylised opening titles and initial deafening blasts of composers Tyler Bates and Tim Williams’ score.

West sustains the queasy conflation of fantastical delirium and nauseating reality until the eponymous farm girl has relinquished her tenuous grasp on sanity.

Goth delivers a jaw-dropping, powerhouse performance that skips fancifully between childlike delusion and psychopathic fury.

The piece de resistance is an incendiary soliloquy in which Pearl tearfully confides: “It seems like there’s something missing in me that the rest of the world has”, and fully reveals the malevolence festering in her guts to her sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro).

Filmed in unsettling close-up, the scene includes a six-minute monologue that refuses to cut away from Goth’s face as she discloses her diabolical sins.

We’re certainly not in Kansas anymore.

Instead we’re in 1918 Texas, over 60 years before the nightmarish events of X. Teenager Pearl (Goth) begrudgingly completes her chores to appease her domineering German immigrant mother Ruth (Tandi Wright).

The pair have been isolated at Powder Kegs Farm for weeks to prevent the Spanish flu from crossing the threshold and potentially dealing a fatal blow to Pearl’s paralysed father (Matthew Sunderland).

Pearl waits impatiently for her soldier husband Howard (Alistair Sewell) to return from The Great War so they can leave the state and realise her burning ambition of becoming a dancer.

“Please Lord, make me the biggest star the world has ever known so that I may get far, far away from this place,” she prays.

During a rare excursion into town, Pearl encounters the projectionist (David Corenswet) from the local cinema and he fans the flames of the teenager’s rebellion.

Mother and daughter clash, the former fearfully recognising the monster under her roof, who secretly kills farm animals with a pitchfork for pleasure.

Co-written by West and Goth, Pearl hangs entirely on a fearless central performance that conjures a tormented kindred spirit to Psycho’s Norman Bates.

Motifs and themes from the first film, set in 1979, resonate more clearly once their origins are revealed, expanding a gore-slathered mythology that intends to conclude with a sequel to X entitled MaXXXine.

At the end of The Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy dismisses her witch-slaying actions with a plaintive: “I didn’t mean to kill her. Really, I didn’t.”

Pearl cannot say the same.

ALLELUJAH (12A, 99 mins)

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)


In 2018, the Bridge Theatre in London staged Allelujah, Alan Bennett’s bittersweet anthem to the National Health Service set on the geriatric ward of a beloved community hospital in Yorkshire under threat of closure.

Magical flourishes that soared on stage, including a chorus of patients performing heartfelt renditions of Little Richard’s Good Golly, Miss Molly and Cliff Richard’s Congratulations, have been surgically removed by screenwriter Heidi Thomas from an entertaining and moving film adaptation that acknowledges the devastating impact of coronavirus on the NHS front line in a succinct and quietly powerful coda.

The play’s narrative curveball, neatly dispensed at the end of Act One as a mood shift for the audience, diminishes in translation to the screen but still induces an icy shiver of discomfort.

Opposing attitudes to care and support for the elderly are encapsulated in an early scene, seen through the eyes of a hard-working and effusive doctor born in India, who is culturally hard-wired to respect his elders.

“I like old people,” he affirms without irony. “Even old people don’t like old people,” curtly remarks a patient’s son.

Allelujah sermonises proudly and unreservedly on the side of the caregivers.

Director Richard Eyre’s film strolls down the corridors of a fictional hospital affectionately known as the Beth, short for Bethlehem, so-called because when the facility first opened in the 18th century, there was always room for anyone in need of care. The chairman of the hospital trust (Vincent Franklin) invites a two-man documentary crew onto the Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield geriatric wards to interview residents who will be forced to transfer to a soulless custom-built facility in Tadcaster in the event of the Beth’s demise.

The visiting director and cameraman liaise with no-nonsense ward sister Gilpin (Jennifer Saunders) and Dr Valentine (Bally Gill) to capture fly-on-the-wall footage of former schoolmaster Ambrose (Derek Jacobi) and retired librarian Mary (Judi Dench).

Meanwhile, management consultant Colin Colman (Russell Tovey), whose cantankerous father Joe (David Bradley) is a resident of the Beth, arrives from London to finalise his recommendations to the minister who will ultimately decide the fate of patients and staff.

Tension crackles between father and son. Joe is a former miner and vociferously disapproves of Colin’s openly gay lifestyle far removed from his northern roots. Their intergenerational tug of war echoes deep-rooted divisions within the Beth and the wider, target-driven NHS.

Allelujah prescribes a full dose of Bennett’s earthy humour, generously distributed among an impressive ensemble cast.

SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS (12A, 130 mins)

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)

Shazam! Fury Of The Gods: Lucy Liu as Kalypso, Helen Mirren as Hespera and Rachel Zegler as Anthea

Wise-cracking teenager Billy Batson (Asher Angel) comes to terms with his superpowers in an action-packed sequel directed by David F Sandberg, based on the DC Comics character. Billy and fellow foster kids Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), Pedro (Jovan Armand), Eugene (Ian Chen) and Darla (Faithe Herman) wrestle with growing pains as they live under the roof of their guardians, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans).

The children bear the heavy responsibility that comes with transforming into Shazam (Zachary Levi) and heroic alter egos Super Hero Freddy (Adam Brody), Super Hero Mary (Currey again), Super Hero Pedro (DJ Cotrona), Super Hero Darla (Meagan Good) and Super Hero Eugene (Ross Butler).

The Daughters of Atlas aka Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Anthea (Rachel Zegler) arrive on Earth in search of stolen magic.

The only brave souls standing in their destructive path are Shazam and his brightly costumed compatriots.

RYE LANE (15, 82 mins)

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)

David Jonsson as Dom and Vivian Oparah as Yas in Rye Lane

The streets of present-day south London provide the backdrop to a homegrown romantic comedy written by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, and directed by Raine Allen-Miller.

Dom (David Jonsson) is devastated when his long-term partner Gia (Karene Peter) breaks up with him after she cheats with his best friend Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni).

Tears flow in the toilets at a friend’s art exhibition as Dom tries to compose himself, unaware that his emotional meltdown has been overheard by Yas (Vivian Oparah). She is a dauntless free spirit facing relationship woes connected to her ex-boyfriend Jules (Malcolm Atobrah).

Dom and Yas connect while they are both in the process of finding themselves and healing wounds.

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