By midlandsmovies, Mar 6 2017 03:26PM
XX (2017) Dir. Roxanne Benjamin, Sofia Carrillo, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent & Jovanka Vuckovic
** SOME SPOILERS**
An 80 minute horror anthology from different female directors, XX takes an established formula (Creepshow, V/H/S) to tell 4 interesting tales about women, made by women but to be enjoyed by all.
A quick synopsis of the 4 shorts starts with The Box (from Jovanka Vuckovic) where a young boy peers into a stranger’s present on a train and then refuses to eat any food. With the family frustrated, he shares the secret with his sister and father who also stop eating. A gory dream of the family feasting on the desperate mother leads to the end when the 3 members die of starvation and the mother searches for the mysterious stranger. What?
The Birthday Party (Roxanne Benjamin) tells a story of another mother trying to hide the fact her husband has died during the craziness of arranging and hosting her daughter’s fancy dress birthday party. She hides the body around their home then places him in a giant panda suit before the inevitable grisly uncovering happens in front of the gang of children at the end which provides the top comedic moment of the films.
Moving into monster territory is Roxanne Benjamin’s Don't Fall where a group of friends’ desert trip is interrupted by an evil spirit they saw depicted in cave paintings. Maiming and killing its way through the friends, this is the most gory of the quadrilogy and perhaps the most fun, by sticking to well-known tropes and throwing in some chases and action.
Finally, Her Only Living Son (from Karyn Kusama) shows a single mum attempting to resolve issues with her misbehaving son who turns out may or may not be Satan’s offspring (!)
Interspersed with stop-motion-animation between each individual short, XX takes some intriguing ideas and new directions and I enjoyed the different tones of each. The first is pure mystery, the second is darkly comedic, the third channels the slasher genre, whilst the last has a classic Devil’s son theme. But the problems? Well, at under 20 minutes each, there is very little oomph to the proceedings, ideas cannot be developed and characters are broad.
Also, given the talent on show, the tales simply aren’t punchy enough. I was frustrated with the first, the second tale was funny but shot like a sitcom, the third was most fun whilst Her Only Living Son was a disappointment. Made by Karyn Kusama who directed one of my favourite films of last year (#2 of my top 10 of 2016 was her movie The Invitation), this stale story of a possibly demonic son was a good premise but delivered far too little.
It’s such a shame overall that I cannot massively recommend this audacious take on horror and the involvement of all-female writers and directors is certainly to be applauded. My passion for Anna Biller’s more interesting take on horror in The Love Witch is something I would recommend much higher. The stories here though? Sadly, as a fan of narrative cinema, they just didn’t shock or feel me with any terror or fear. An admirable attempt but only the most die-hard horror fans need to investigate this frustrating four-some.
Midlands Movies Mike