XX is four deadly tales from four killer women.
XX is probably most well known for being the first horror anthology film where all of the segments are directed by female filmmakers. The fact it took even this long for something like an all-female anthology horror film seems really bizarre to me. It's just very odd that this is what this movie has had to be marketed as when female filmmakers are just as capable if not more at making a satisfying horror film. Even worse is listening to interviews with the four filmmakers and hearing just how much they struggled to get this project off the ground.
The four segments are The Box, The Birthday Party, Don't Fall and Her Only Living Son. I found myself enjoying three of the four segments. While I didn't love one of the segments, it wasn't a badly made short film. It just felt a little out of place when compared to the rest of the shorts. The other three play more in line with the horror elements while one feels almost like a quirky black comedy. The rest play it dark, and you can feel a complete change in tone with the way the shorts have been arranged. It's a little upset but doesn't kill the overall anthology.
The Box is my favourite segment. This is the most creepy and haunting of the short films. The biggest problem with putting The Box first is that it's such a great opening that the rest of the short films sadly don't quite live up to just how great this opening segment plays. It's dark while touching on a lot of darker themes that could be seen as child abuse or neglect and cannibalism. I also love that The Box doesn't give us an answer as to what was in the box. It leaves us with questions. I also think the way the short film ends, left me a little saddened and emotionally drained.
The Birthday Party is my least favourite of the short films. I think the reason I didn't like it as much as the rest was that this is very light in tone and it feels clinical with lots of white. It also plays things in an almost comical manner. After such a dark and disturbing opening, this feels out of place for me. Had they opened with The Birthday Party and slowly gotten darker, I may have felt like it fit tonally but being the second of four, it feels wrong to me. It's still a well-made short film, it just feels like it was placed in the wrong order for me.
Don't Fall brings XX back to darker and bloodier territory. It feels like a mix of Greg McLean's The Darkness meets the Australian horror film Primal. It's quick, it delivers on the gore, and it gives us a predatory monster. The short doesn't need to be much other than a creepy campfire tale, and that's exactly what it feels like. Visually, the segment is well done, and I think it's the most fun of the four. While The Box is slow and moody, The Birthday Party is lighter in tone, Don't Fall is just fast-paced, it feels pretty frantic and delivers blood and gore.
Her Only Living Son is directed by the excellent Karyn Kusama. Her short in XX feels more in line with her film The Invitation tonally than it does Jennifer's Body. This is a slow burn that builds to a pretty dark final. I think this is held together by three solid performances. Like The Box, I think this short leaves you asking questions. While not as ambiguous as The Box, it still feels like a bit of a weird short and doesn't hand all the answers on a silver platter to the audience. I think it is my second favourite short and a nice way to close XX.
In between all four of the segments that are featured in XX, we have these gorgeous stop-motion animations. They give the film this eerie vibe to it all. The wrap-around segments in Anthology movies are always important to me. They have to be just as good, if not better than the short films. When they work well with the short films, it completes the story. I think the ones featured in this film are all great. Some very creepy visuals are provided here.
When it comes to the acting in XX, I thought the performances were great. Melanie Lynskey is quiet and understated in The Birthday Party while Natalie Brown is a mum on the verge of a nervous breakdown as she is unable to understand why her family are falling victim to what appears to be an unseen presence. I feel that both Angela Trimbur and Breeda Wool seem like they get to have the most fun in this anthology film and Christina Kirk as another mother who is trying to deal with her sociopathic son is also fantastic in her segment.
DEATH TOLL: 9
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman's leg and arm are carved up and served to her children.
- Someone is found dead in their home office.
- A man is ripped apart by a monster.
- A squirrel is nailed to a tree.
- A box full of teeth is found.
- A woman is turned into a ravenous monster.
- A bone breaks through the skin.
- A mother and son crush each to death by hugging.
- A woman is seen cleaning up blood.
- Blood is shown pouring out of a guys mouth.
- A man is attacked and thrown through a window.
The fact that it's taken this long to see a horror anthology film directed entirely by women is a bit of a shame. However, if this is the first attempt, I think it's a pretty noteworthy start. I found that I enjoyed three of the four segments. While one falls just short due to its tone and feels a little out of place, it's still not a bad anthology film. Some great performances and gorgeous wrap-around segments in between the short films, XX is a great start, and hopefully, we will see more horror anthologies directed by women.