Anthology horror movies are a mixed bag in more ways than one. Often times they have flashes of brilliance in one short and everything else falls flat. XX (2017) is a collection of four short films written and directed by women. It is an excellent example of an anthology done exactly right. It captures a consistent tone with distinct style differences between all the shorts.
First off there’s an amazing stop animation frame story directed by Sofia Carrillo. It’s creepy and is about dolls. That’s absolutely all I need in something ever. It is a full enough tale unto itself that it almost counts as fifth short. It sets the tone from the get go that you’re in for a quirky and slightly unsettling ride, but ends on a sweet note.
Which leads us to the shorts themselves:
Based on a short story by Jack Ketchum, a boy asks “what’s in the box?” to a stranger on the train. The stranger shows him and proceeds to lose his appetite and stops eating altogether.
Let me just take a second to say that the answer to “what’s in the box?” is never ever something good. It just isn’t. So don’t ever ask it in real life. Did se7en teach us nothing? Now that we’ve established that, the Box feels like a psychological mind fuck about how mothers can feel alone and isolated even amongst the people who love them most.
The Birthday Party
(Annie Clark/Roxanne Benjamin)
Annie Clark is better known to the world as St Vincent and she makes some of the most amazing music ever. Here she delivers a psychedelic and delicious black comedy about the lengths we’ll go to for our kids. It is my favorite in the four films. It walks a perfect tightrope between dark, weird, funny and still making sense.
Don’t Fall is a pretty quick and straightforward possession tale about four campers who camp on cursed land. There’s excellent monster makeup and a well done transformation scene. Super enjoyable, but it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel.
Her Only Living Son
Eighteen years after living on the run, a woman must confront who (or what) her son really is or if he is even really her son. Another one that is pretty straightforward, but speaks so much to the strength of women even with things they have very little actual control over.
What XX offers us is a unique take on women in the horror genre. It is the rare film that doesn’t depend on over sexualisation or damsel in distress cliches. This is one of best shot and well crafted collections to come along in awhile. Every single one of these women has a unique and much needed voice. These stories are just good stories. XX is completely worth a watch.