Shooting Stars Never Stop

Directed by Ti West

Starring Mia Goth, Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Debicki 

Released July 5th, 2024

Rated R

The difficult transition from starring in adult movies to mainstream fare seems like a real possibility for Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) when she lands a role in The Puritan II, a film helmed by an upcoming no-nonsense director, Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki). On set, Maxine meets Molly Bennett (Lily Collins), the star of The Puritan, who died in that film but returns for the sequel thanks to magic of Hollywood. Maxine wants nothing more than to be a star, but she’s torn between two worlds. Her agent, Teddy (Giancarlo Esposito), assures her that nothing will stand in her way. Her friend Tabby (Halsey) tells her she won’t get paid half as much as she would on one of her adult movies. This is before Tabby is murdered by a serial killer. 

The police notice that a few of Maxine’s acquaintances have started coming down with a slight case of death, so Detective Willams (Michelle Monaghan) and Detective Torres (Bobby Cannavale) decide to ask Ms. Minx a few questions. Maxine doesn’t want to talk to the cops or anyone about what happened, so when Private Investigator John Labat (Kevin Bacon) tracks her down and says he knows she’s actually Maxine Miller, the lone survivor of what is now known as the Texas Porn Star Murders, Maxine is terrified that her past actions may impede her quest for stardom. 

Written, directed, produced, and edited by Ti West, the talented young filmmaker behind the modern horror classics The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, this is the third installment in a series that began with 2022’s X and its surprise 1918-set prequel Pearl. Set in 1985, MaXXXine does a meticulous job recreating the seedy, neon-soaked nightlife of the mid-eighties, something you’re either familiar with from living through it, or perhaps from having seen similar aesthetics on display in something like To Live and Die in L.A.

The most impressive (and nerdy!) element of the three films in this series is the fact that they all sport a different visual feel, with X evoking a 1970s Tobe Hooper film, Pearl recalling the lush look of Douglas Sirk, and MaXXXine being in the vein of the sleazy, low-budget slasher pictures that were ubiquitous in the VHS era. Characters are introduced just to be killed off in bloody fashion a few scenes later, logic goes out the window, and this being set in the Me Decade, there is some commentary on the nature of consumerism and art. Pearl is my favorite of the trilogy, followed by X, but that’s not to say MaXXXine isn’t good. A film that blares Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Welcome to the Pleasure Dome during a club scene and features references to Chinatown and Body Double is very much up my alley, not to mention the nods to the work of Dario Argento and Italian Giallo cinema. 

There is a conversation in the film that has characters naming actors who got their big breaks in horror films, such as Demi Moore, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Brooke Shields. This dialogue makes seeing Friday the 13th alum Kevin Bacon as the P.I. on Maxine’s trail all the more enjoyable. Bacon is one of the film’s many highlights, his Louisiana detective over-the-top and delightful. It’s nice to see Bacon embrace his horror roots, like he did in the recent slasher They/Them.

Giancarlo Esposito plays his role with aplomb, adding gravitas to a role that is frankly underwritten (much like he did for his role in the recent horror/comedy Abigail). Halsey’s part is small and that’s probably for the best. Mia Goth’s performances in this series as both Pearl and Maxine are already legendary in horror circles. Goth reminds me of Karen Black, another interesting actress that mainstream Hollywood didn’t know what to do with, who found some of her best roles in horror films. 

Some viewers may find that the film moves too slowly, even with its moments of gross-out violence and gore, but it felt to me like a fitting end to a special trilogy. A female-fronted horror series with a story about shattered dreams and murderous ambition that spans sixty-plus years, being told out of order, with each installment evoking a different film style? That’s something to be celebrated.