Is X (2022) Inspired by a True Story?

The A24 horror slasher film ‘X’ charts a story about a young group of adult filmmakers who find themselves entering a nightmarish farm during one of their shoots. Maxine Minx aspires to be a Hollywood star, buoyed by the desirable X Factor that her producer boyfriend, Wayne, insists she possesses. Nevertheless, the woman is stuck starring in his pornographic films for the time being until she finally gets recognition and breaks it into the mainstream industry. Consequently, Wayne and his crew of filmmakers, made up of six artists, covertly book an old couple’s farmland. Yet, once the farm owners, Howard and Pearl, learn about the crew’s intentions, it unleashes something horrific, sending Maxine and her crew on a path to fight for their survival.

The film, set in 1979, offers a fascinating look into the gratuitous genre of slasher films by focusing on themes of sexual pleasure in contrast with gory violence. Furthermore, a perpetual desire for youthful fame propels the plot forward, paving the way for Pearl and her homicidal storyline. As such, based on the narrative cornerstones that build ‘X,’ viewers must wonder if the filmmaking crew and their lethal night have a basis in real life.

X is Not Based on a True Story

‘X’ is the first installation that jumpstarts filmmaker Ti West’s horror franchise starring Mia Goth in central roles within a shared cinematic universe. Within the confines of ‘X’s’ narrative, West explores dual themes, one which is a love letter to the art of filmmaking and the other which conveys a perpetual fear of aging and failure. Somehow, the two themes manage to remain intricately interconnected.

The film takes place in the late 1970s— a period West considers to be the most admired time in American filmmaking history. As such, it proves to be an intentional choice since the director was interested in conveying the craft-driven love that goes behind the art of filmmaking. Thus, since experimental successful movies defined the era for the filmmaker, the time period remained an easy choice for him.

“[So] I wanted to make a movie where the characters in the movie were making a movie to invite you in to kind of be charmed by what it takes to make a movie,” West told Collider in an interview. By doing so, the director was able to tackle one of the bare-bones aspects of the film. Furthermore, by assigning an adult filmmaking crew from the 70s to be the central group within the film, the narrative seamlessly highlights the primary motif of aging and its associated fears.

Actress Brittany Snow, who essays the role of Bobby-Lynne in the film, spoke about the same and said, “That was one of my first conversations with Ti. I think our first call, I said, so, you did a movie about the fear of getting older. I feel that! I think everyone feels that. I have aging parents, and I’m getting older, and there is always that fear of, am I doing enough? Am I living my life to its fullest potential?”

“And I think the juxtaposition of these two groups of people, one at the beginning, one at the end, and how that collides. I think [it] is something that nobody’s done in a horror movie before,” continued Snow, perfectly communicating the central conflict within the film. Therefore, with a natural connection to the familiar slasher genre and realistic sources for narrative horror, ‘X’ manages to compile a plot that remains laced with realism. Nevertheless, since the film’s events have no basis in reality, it remains confined to the world of fictionality.

Similarity to a Serial Killing Duo Of The Past

Despite a lack of tangible basis in reality, ‘X’ sports some similarity with the story of a real-life serial killing duo, distinguished in history by their elderly status. In October 1989, Ray & Faye Copeland, an elderly couple— well into their 70s— were caught by the authorities for the murder of numerous victims. Although Ray already held an impressive rap sheet from his previous run-ins with the law, including a year-long imprisonment for theft and forgery, it was an anonymous tip-line call that brought the cops to the Copeland’s farm.

After searching the premises, the cops found five shallow graves, each holding a decomposing body inside. Furthermore, upon further investigation, the cops discovered the murder weapon, as well as a disturbing quilt made by Faye using the victims’ clothes. Ultimately, Ray and Faye were charged with five murder accounts and became the oldest criminals in American history to receive a death sentence, even though neither went to execution.

Although a livestock scam scheme drove the Copeland’s crimes, unlike Howard and Pearl’s lust and envy-based murders, the similarities between the two pairs remain evident. Nevertheless, filmmaker West, or any other personality involved in the film’s making, has never referenced the Copelands’ story as an inspiration for their film. Thus, the similarities between the two stories continue to be purely coincidental without an intentional relation between them.

Furthermore, as the audience learns more about Pearl’s character, her story departs even further from the Copelands’ real-life crime. West came up with the idea for ‘X’ on its own and similarly finished its script as the sole screenwriter. However, once the crew flew out to New Zealand for the filming, the filmmaker found himself with some free time on account of the mandated quarantine everyone had to observe as per COVID regulations.

As a result, West, who was already entertaining the idea of creating two films consecutively, decided to pen ‘Pearl’ with help from lead actress Mia Goth. Therefore, even though ‘X’ was written without any influence from its predecessor prequel film, ‘Pearl,’ the former’s development remained heavily influenced by the same. For the same reason, the two films remain inherently connected. As such, we can conclude that despite the similarities between the Copeland murders and ‘X,’ the former was likely not an inspiration for the film, rendering the latter as a purely fictitious story.

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