How MaXXXine Explores The Real Life Relationship Between Horror And Adult Films


When the world was first introduced to Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), she was a budding adult film starlet traveling with her crew to Texas to appear in the film "The Farmer's Daughter." She tells her boyfriend/film producer Wayne that she wants the whole world to know her name, "like Lynda Carter or some s**t." He tells her that the whole world will lust after her because she's "got that X-factor." She has dreams of being a star with her name in lights, and she'll do whatever it takes to get to the top. This film was supposed to be her ticket to superstardom, but after the events of the Texas Porn Star Murders, Maxine Minx escaped as the sole survivor and had to start again in the City of Angels.

Six years after the events of "X," Maxine Minx returns in "MaXXXine," (read our review here) which sees the now well-established adult film star looking to transition into mainstream movies. "Your agent tells us you're quite a popular name in adult film and entertainment," a casting director comments. "I'm curious, did you always want to be in that line of work?" Without missing a beat, Maxine explains, "I always wanted to be famous." Dancing in peep show booths to earn money between filming and literally busting the balls of those who dare cross her are of equal importance, and despite what every mid-00s comedy film would have you believe, being a top adult star is no easy task. It's a physically demanding job to be sure, but to be the best, you have to make the viewers at home believe what you're doing is real.

It's an awful lot like acting in a horror movie, which is probably why so many porn stars transition to mainstream acting through the genre.

The similarities between adult films and horror movies

Horror films are undoubtedly more permissible by general society, but horror and pornography share a kinship in the way they are politicized and thrust into the center of moral panics, serving as a barometer for a person's moral standing. Consumption of horror and/or pornography is still highly stigmatized despite both forms of entertainment proving both prolific and profitable. Back rooms at video stores have gone by the wayside and it's next to impossible to scroll social media without a [N U D E S I N B I O] bot interrupting whatever fresh hell of film discourse has us consumed on any given day. People freely admit to having accounts on OnlyFans, and yet there's still a ridiculous stigma attached to having been an adult performer in any capacity. Not quite to the same level, but there's a similar stigma attached to horror performers.

The legendary Barbara Crampton wrote a fantastic piece for Fangoria called "Don't Call Me a Scream Queen," explaining that the catchy label diminishes the very hard work of acting in a horror movie. "I don't love the term. Particularly because there's a long history of actresses being demeaned, underestimated, and manipulated by male directors," commented director Sarah Adina Smith. "There are serious, fiercely intelligent actresses working in genre films and I would never want to trivialize their contributions."

Horror fans are indeed die-hards in their dedication to those who consistently perform in the genre, but that doesn't mean much to casting directors or producers when looking at crossover talent. The Academy famously disregards the skills of horror performers, which is why so many actors tend to continue doing horror movies throughout their careers if they aren't able to break through into the mainstream.

Adult film stars are given the same treatment at a much higher caliber, but horror tends to be the genre that welcomes them with open arms.

Horror and pornography require equal parts strength and vulnerability

Acting in horror or pornography requires a similar skillset, a combination of strength and endurance that doesn't erase a grounded sense of vulnerability. It's probably why so many adult film stars make their mainstream debut in horror films.

Fred J. Lincoln's only non-pornographic role was in Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left," Marilyn Chambers of "Behind the Green Door" fame (a film shown in "MaXXXine") had the starring role in David Cronenberg's "Rabid," both Abigail Clayton (aka Gail Lawrence) and Sharon Mitchell both had small roles in William Lustig's "Maniac," Robert Kerman was an exploitation king in "Cannibal Holocaust," "Cannibal Ferox," and "Eaten Alive!," and folks like Ashlyn Gere, Kayden Kross, Teri Weigel, Ron Jeremy, Sasha Grey, and Traci Lords all have multiple mainstream credits to their names. In the case of Lords, she's still actively working today. (If you haven't seen her in "Excision," get on that.)

On the flip side, there are also some genuinely fantastic horror porn parodies that allow adult stars to show off their acting chops. In my opinion, Joanna Angel's company Burning Angel is the industry leader in this arena, with films like "The XXX-orcist," "Re-Penetrator," and "Evil Head" all doubling as genuinely fun horror comedies that just happen to show unsimulated sex. All three were directed by the recently deceased Doug Sakmann, a Troma legend and prolific special effects artist — so believe me when I say the horror is just as hardcore as the sex.

And in the case of Aramis Sartorio, aka Tommy Pistol (also the star of all three films), he's even taken matters into his own hands and directed horror movies like "The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol" to get around the stigma of hiring adult film stars in Hollywood on mainstream projects.

Do not accept a life you do not deserve

After Maxine nabs the leading role in the horror film "The Puritan II," director Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debecki) admits that she had to fight the studio to cast her; its executives were concerned about the possible backlash of an adult film star leading a studio horror picture. Bender rightfully points out the hypocrisy considering horror films are totally cool with showing gore, violence, and nudity, but that pornography is apparently a step too far. The irony of this conversation taking place in preparation for a film called "The Puritan II" should not be ignored. Countless actors got their start in horror and went on to become superstars, and this is exactly the route Maxine is looking to take. Given her palpable X-factor, she is poised to do precisely that. Even so, the looming threat of the anti-porn stigma still hangs above her head, so much so that her friend Leon (Moses Sumney) reminds her of it after she gleefully announces she booked the job.

MaXXXine" is the end of a trilogy exploring themes of sexuality, passion, aging, the fear of wasted youth, beauty, and obsession — but these films are also set in reverie. "Pearl" even features an extended dance sequence of the titular character (also played by Goth) giving the audition of a lifetime, only for reality to rudely pull back the curtain and reveal it was all in her head. During a pivotal moment in "MaXXXine," she sees a vision of her potential future as a movie star, only to be interrupted by the situation at hand.

Maxine Minx is a crossover star

We may see what the immediate aftermath brings Maxine Minx following the events of "MaXXXine," but there's no telling what will happen to her career down the line. Perhaps she'll get to become an acting fixture like Traci Lords or a cult celebrity like Annie Sprinkle. Or maybe she'll disappear into the void of nothingness that swallows up so many "scream queens," relegating her to a life of signing autographs at horror conventions held in hotels just outside the airport. There is a vital truth in all areas of the entertainment industry; it's a cutthroat world that chews people up and spits them out again. Maxine has endured things that most horror screenwriters would kill to be able to dream up, and has a strong sense of self that adult film studios were wise to immediately recognize. She's more than prepared to take on Hollywood, but it's up to those gatekeepers to let her in.

In reality, she'd star in a studio horror sequel, disappear for years, and maybe get lucky with a career resurgence when the nostalgia wave for the film circles back around. But I don't like living in reality. I want to believe that Maxine's success will pave the way for a complete overhaul of the way the industry views adult film and horror performers, but this is also a film where a woman was allowed to direct a studio horror film as part of a budding franchise. So, much like watching porn, I accept that it's all a fantasy.

"MaXXXine" is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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