“XX” is yet another horror anthology, this time featuring four horror segments directed by women, all of which revolve around concepts mostly associated with women. While “XX” garners the recurring theme of motherhood, the tales themselves are based around feminine or maternal concepts that are twisted for the genre. “The Box” is a loose allegory for anorexia, “The Birthday Party” is about status, “Don’t Fall” is kind an allegory for menstruation, while “Her Only Living Son” is about a mother’s unwillingness to let go of her son and let him realize his destiny. The four very talented female filmmakers were given complete freedom and as a result we have a pretty stellar horror film, all things considering.
“The Box,” directed by Jovanka Vukovic is easily my favorite of the foursome and continues lingering in my mind. Based on the Jack Ketchum short story, mom Susan is absolutely baffled when while traveling home on a train one night, morbid curiosity overtakes her son who is allowed to peek in to a stranger’s wrapped gift box. Mysteriously after that moment, he refuses to eat, and begins going for days on end without having a single bite of food. With Susan and her husband at a loss, things get even more horrific when their daughter also refuses to eat, and Susan can do nothing but watch her family waste away inexplicably, while never quite aware of what it is he saw in the brightly wrapped gift box. Vukovic’s adaptation of Ketchum’s short story is thought provoking and absolutely compelling right until the very clever final scene.
“The Birthday Party,” directed by Annie Clark aka St. Vincent is a fun dark comedy about a wealthy mother tasked with giving her daughter a highly anticipated birthday party. When her husband commits suicide, she does literally anything to keep the party going for her neighbors, even if it means lugging around a corpse. Silly, absurd, and packed with a funny finale, this is a wry follow up to the dark opener. “Don’t Fall” from Roxanne Benjamin is a short but neat monster tale about an acrophobic hiker who is possessed by an ancient demon who ironically has no troubles scaling rocks and cliffs, while she begins slaughtering her stoner friends. Finally, “Her only Living Son” from Karyn Kusama is a stark and eerie homage to “Rosemary’s Baby” in which a mother witnesses her only son garnering a disturbing transformation before her very eyes.
As he enters in to adulthood, she fights to keep him close to her. Will their love be enough to conquer what has already been planned by his birth father? All in all, “XX” is a worthwhile bit of horror entertainment filled with good performances all around, some neat plot twists, and absolutely fantastic stop motion work by Sofia Carillo, whose animated story frame for the four tales was a delicious mix of whimsical and surreal. Though some viewers may find “XX” lacking in scares, it’s a horror anthology filled with substance and a ton of talent behind it. In the continuing struggle to help women build a respectability and career that their male contemporaries do, “XX” is a worthwhile genre entry that thankfully doesn’t destroy its concept like “Holidays” did.
Now on VOD and limited release.