Written and Directed by: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Jovanka Vuckovic
Cast: Natalie Brown, Jonathan Watton, Peter DaCunha
Ok, so another anthology movie caught my attention and of course I had to check it out. So, I watched it and started working on the review for it, which is when I found out something cool about the movie. Come to find out, all the segments of XX were directed by female directors and starred female leads. Yeah, that might not sound cool, but to me it was. I dig that more female directors are getting to show off their horror skills behind the camera.
Now, XX came out in February 2017 and it takes about eighty minutes to tell its four stories which are: The Box; The Birthday Party; Don’t Fall; and Her Only Living Son. XX fills in the spots between the stories with this creepy (stop-motion) walking dollhouse that goes around interacting with different things in the room. Instead of using the whole movie to tie everything together, like one big story, the dollhouse ends up being like a fifth story that doesn’t really end up being anything but a creepy walking dollhouse.
As for the stories. First up was The Box, which was directed by Jovanka Vuckovic and was based on a short by Jack Ketchum. A mom and her two children (Danny and Jenny) are on the subway and the son starts talking to the stranger next to him. After a few exchanges, Danny (DaCunha) asks to see what’s inside the box the stranger has on his lap. From that moment on things quickly spiral down hill. It doesn’t take long before Danny’s changes start affecting the rest of the family. Now, I dig a good mystery, but between the play-through and the end resolution, I didn’t feel like a got a full story. The audience is constantly questioning what’s in the box, the story is constantly asking what was in the box, and at the end of it all…it didn’t seem to matter. The Box wasn’t really scary, but it spins its story around mystery and a horrific idea. No parent wants to see harm come to their kids, and when something is wrong with them…you want to fix it. The idea was interesting, but with a slow pace and questionable play-through, it just wasn’t my favorite of the stories.
Up next was The Birthday Party, which was directed by Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and marks her directorial debut. Mary (Melanie Lynskey) is throwing her daughter a birthday party, and she wants it to be perfect. However, as we all know, what we plan for and what we get are not always the same thing. As Mary is getting ready for the party she sees something that could put a wrinkle in the day’s festivities. So, as all good moms do, Mary does everything she can to make sure her daughter has a great party…at all costs. I know all of these stories are supposed to be horror based, but this one fell more towards the comical side of things, which I kind of liked. Lynskey (Two and a Half Men) was great as the main star and played her, somewhat off center, character really well. What really cemented the comedic side for me was as the story ended and you’re waiting for the credits, you’re filled in on what the rest of the title of the story was called. Yeah, that sounds weird I know, but the end credits actually made the overall story even better.
The third story up was Don’t Fall, which was directed by Roxanne Benjamin. Four friends are out in the middle of nowhere camping and having fun. Of course, that can’t last long in a horror film, right? The group stumbles across a weird painting on a rock, and before they know it, the fun is over and they’re being hunted down by something scary. This one was my favorite story, but I wish the running time was longer. Sadly, because of the time limit, the story felt rushed and was over as soon as it started. Due to the fast pace, you don’t really get a chance to enjoy what’s going on before it’s over. I think this one could be a really good feature length film. Another thing I liked about this story was the special effects. When they did the full reveal of the creature, it looked really cool.
Then the last story up was Her Only Living Son, which was directed by Karyn Kusama. Cora (Christina Kirk) has been keeping a secret from her son, Andy (Kyle Allen) for many years now, but it’s starting to look like she won’t be able to keep that secret for much longer. Come to find out, Cora isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Apparently, there are a few things Andy’s been doing that Cora didn’t know anything about. As it always does, the truth will find a way to come out and just in time for Andy’s eighteenth birthday. This one was a bit of a head-scratcher. You know the mom is hiding something, but you’re not really sure what the deal is. Then throw in her son and how odd he’s acting and you’ve got a story that does a good job at keeping you guessing till they are ready to reveal it. Something that stood out to me was how well Kusama used every second of her short to tell her story. I like watching shorts, but most of the time I’m left wanting. Because of the time frame, I end up feeling like I’ve missed out or was rushed through it. However, I didn’t feel that way with Kusama’s story. Her Only Living Son was a perfect fit for a short. There were no wasted scenes or dragged out moments. Kusama used every scene to tell a complete story, be it verbally or visually, which is why it was my second favorite of the anthology.
Side note: Out of all the horror stories being told, none of them are really “gory”, but Don’t Fall does get a bit bloody.
Overall, it’s not my favorite anthology by any means, and it’s definitely in my one and done pile, but a couple of the stories are cool. Since I found this one on Netflix, if you’re having a sleepless night, give it a watch.