Director Ti West's MaXXXine Was Inspired By One Of The Best Sci-Fi Horror Movies Ever Made

The pop culture nostalgia cycle might have moved on to the early 2000s, but for many filmmakers and movie fans, the '80s will never go out of style. That's certainly true for director Ti West, who returns this year with the third chapter of his horror trilogy that started with 2022's "X" and was shortly followed by a surprise prequel, "Pearl." Star Mia Goth will return for this summer's bloody conclusion, "MaXXXine," in which aspiring adult film star (and massacre survivor) Maxine Minx is now trying to break into mainstream movies with a role in horror movie "The Puritan II."

"MaXXXine" is set in 1985 Los Angeles, six years after the events of "X." West recently told Empire magazine that "the '80s aspect of it was a natural, chronological thing" — but that it was also a great opportunity to draw inspiration from '80s movies. For many people, that phrase conjures up titles like "Sixteen Candles," "Teen Wolf," "The Goonies," and perhaps even "Weird Science." But it was a decade full of flavor, and West wanted to bring to life the "urban, gritty '80s" rather than the "dorky '80s." After all, he argues, "'Terminator' is just as much an '80s movie as 'The Breakfast Club.'"

Speaking to Total Film, the director describes "MaXXXine" as "a very rich movie" that features everything from "a 'Terminator'-like aesthetic to a Paul Schrader 'Hardcore' thing to 'Vice Squad' to Giallo." The plot of the movie collides with the real-life rampage of serial killer Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker, and the trailer for "MaXXXine" definitely had echoes of '80s neo-noir mystery-thrillers like the aforementioned "Hardcore." After the grainy "Texas Chain Saw Massacre"-style '70s look of "X" and the glorious Technicolor of "Pearl," West is shaking things up again with this sequel.

The Terminator blended the slasher genre with sci-fi

"The Terminator" was later overshadowed by its 1991 sequel "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," and Arnold Schwarzenegger's hulking robot from the future is now best known as an awkward but well-meaning ally of humanity. In the original 1984 film, however, he wasn't parroting phrases like "hasta la vista, baby" or becoming a surrogate father to a wayward teen. He was a creature straight out of a nightmare — literally. According to director James Cameron:  

"'The Terminator' came from a dream that I had while I was sick with a fever in a cheap pensione in Rome in 1981. It was the image of a chrome skeleton emerging from a fire. When I woke up, I began sketching on the hotel stationery. The first sketch I did showed a metal skeleton cut in half at the waist, crawling over a tile floor, using a large kitchen knife to pull itself forward while reaching out with the other hand. In a second drawing, the character is threatening a crawling woman. Minus the kitchen knife, these images became the finale of 'The Terminator' almost exactly."

Barring a surprise twist waiting in the wings, "MaXXXine" is not a sci-fi movie, but as a slasher horror flick it shares a lot of DNA with "The Terminator." Cameron himself said that Schwarzenegger's character "owes as much to the relentless killers of the slasher horror genre of the late '70s as to science fiction. There is as much Michael Myers in the character of the T-800 as there is Roy Batty from 'Blade Runner.'"

Of course, at this point in Ti West's trilogy Maxine is more like Sarah Connor in "Terminator 2," having already survived one encounter with a killer. I bet she's done a bunch of pull-ups since then as well.

"MaXXXine" arrives in theaters on July 5, 2024.