I’m a huge fan of pretty much anything horror, so I’m frequently trying to hunt down new stuff. Recently I read a list that had a bunch of recommendations for good horror flicks, which is what led me to XX. It’s claim to fame is that all the directors involved are female, hence the oh so clever title of XX. If you’ve never seen an anthology movie, let me enlighten you by saying that they’re often a spray of shit to see what sticks to the wall. This film is broken into segments so I’ll cover the four main stories individually. The reviews aren’t spoiler free, so if you’re interested in watching this movie with fresh eyes, scroll down to “The Judgment” for my spoiler-free assessment.
The Box: This was the second most interesting story of the bunch, but fails to ever reach a point where the story is creepy or has a big reveal. The premise of this segment was that a child looks inside of a stranger’s gift box on the subway and ends up starving himself after for unknown reasons. The scene where the mother is being eaten by her family I’m certain was a dream but part of me thinks that it was intended to be real and the director said, “fuck it, that’s not fatal”. The biggest reason this segment failed is that you never find out what was in the box (WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!) that made the entire family starve themselves. There’s only a vague line delivered at the end from the Mother on the subway that she’s hungry for the truth, or something to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, leaving some things to the imagination is effective but at least throw your audience a bone. All in all, it had a general sense of discomfort but lacked a real conclusion and failed to deliver the real horror.
The Birthday Party: At first, I thought this was going to turn into a social commentary about mental illness in middle aged women. The way that the characters spoke with each other and interacted seemed something like she was making all these people up in her head. Not that that’s what I wanted the film to devolve into, but I was a little surprised everything was exactly how it seemed and the mother was just a bit strange. This segment is in a tie as the worst of the bunch, leaning towards being the worst. It wasn’t comedic enough to be a dark comedy, and it simply wasn’t a horror movie either.
Don’t Fall: This is the other segment that ties for being the worst because of its overall lack of effort and creativity. The story is generic as generic gets: A group of friends go hiking, one of which becomes infected with some alien virus and ends up killing all her friends. The End. The element that makes monster/killer stories interesting and worth watching is the tension. It’s extraordinarily difficult to build tension and tell a complete story in 15 minutes. This story has all the gratification of a monster going ape-shit on people, but without actually earning it by building suspense. Each of the characters were thoroughly annoying which made any sort of investment impossible. The only thing that made this slightly better than the previous segment was that this was technically a horror story for a horror anthology. They also did a decent job on the effects/makeup, so I’ll give them that.
Her Only Living Son: Personally, I’m not a huge fan of occult/Devil children type movies. In theory, I find them very interesting but I’ve never really been wowed by one. Too many of them tend to follow the path of Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen without adding any significant difference. If any of these segments were worthy of getting investment for a full-length film it would be this one. There was emotion that was actually put into this one and I love it. You feel for the mother as her son is pushing for personal freedom and begins to act different. The sense of dread builds as the mother discovers more about her son. I love that it didn’t spell everything out for you immediately, but gives you little pieces to put together before discovering the reality of the situation. It had all the necessary elements to be a successful horror movie and it would do well made into its own.
The Judgment: It’s necessary to shake things up a bit when material starts to become too trite and horror really does need its Renaissance. I was hoping this anthology would be a welcome addition to the world of horror and provide a fresh perspective. But it falls flat, with two of its segments feeling like they’re not even horror and one that should have been a bad SyFy flick. The intermission fluff segments were oddly irritating because they were filmed via stop motion. These were intended to be macabre but came off as uninteresting and nonsensical. It’s unfortunate that this was a showcase of female horror directors because it undermines other aspiring female directors in the future. So, is it worth watching? My recommendation: watch the 4th segment then find something better to watch for the night.