Anthology horror with a feminist edge?
XX is a four-part anthology horror where each segment is written and directed by women. The movie has been praised as being empowering, which is actually somewhat unfortunate, it should not be revolutionary for women to write and direct films. Further, it is disheartening that it has to be an anthology film (with incredibly limited release) that allows these creators any time to shine.
While the film is socially important it does still need to be analyzed based upon the merits of the contents. Overall, XX falls into the traps of a lot of anthology horror where the quality can be uneven. Whether you choose to judge the film by its best segment or its worst will drastically change how the entire experience is viewed.
The film lacks a meta-narrative that links all of the stories together. I think this was a wise decision as the meta-narratives are often the sloppiest part. Aside from VHS not many have held my interest. The viewer is treated to a surreal stop-motion interlude between each segment. The stop-motion is hypnotic, and is one of the highlights of the entire experience.
I will briefly critique each of the four narratives. Spoilers will be kept to a minimum. Due to the volume of the cast I will not link the actresses and actors. Please see the above link for that information.
Our first horror story takes place during Christmastime where young Danny looks into a stranger’s gift box (it is much more innocent than that sentence sounds) and loses his appetite—permanently.
Anyone who has been around children knows how frustrating it is when they refuse to eat. A single meal is unnerving, but Danny goes days, and the parents react a little slower than I would think realistic. Part of the problem with such short films is that we don’t get a chance to get into the characters’ heads. A bit more time on the front end could have helped the audience understand their hesitance to see an issue. Even a simple sentence of “he never eats much” might have helped. The mother theorizes he might be sneaking junk food, which helps, but wasn’t quite enough for me.
The meals the family eats are hilariously well crafted. The father appears to be a stay-at-home chef, and his creations rival any restaurant. Despite the parents being a little slow to take Danny to a doctor, there is a level of realism within the narrative. The directing works well as the story is not scary, but more so a slow trek toward the inevitable. There is a level of predictability within the story, but that doesn’t make it uninteresting.
The Birthday Party
A problem with anthology horror is that the tone can change greatly between each segment. The Birthday Party tries to go more for a horror-comedy feel, and instead of being scary it is more or less awkward.
Mary is planning a birthday party for her daughter when she discovers her husband has died. In an effort to keep the party going she hides the body, and this is the crux of the story. We get to see Mary move the corpse in increasingly uncomfortable situations as she must confront a jaded maid, nosy neighbor, and excited daughter.
Unless you’re a huge fan of Weekend at Bernie’s there isn’t a lot to be offered here. The story goes in predictable form, and while the ending might cause a chuckle it is the only part of the narrative that doesn’t feel a bit like a chore.
Four friends go hiking and find a mysterious sign on a cave wall. Obviously, things are going to go wrong.
The problem with this segment is that the characters are objectively unlikable. Further, they don’t even seem to like one another (which begs the question of how do they expect the audience to) so your emotional investment will be a whopping zero. The people in this movie are absolute pieces of garbage.
The quality of character and storytelling is worse than YouTube horror shorts. Whatever XX had going for it is dragged down into the sewer with this one.
Her Only Living Son
Gotta love someone who looks like they are about 30 playing an 18-year-old.
Here we have a mother and son relationship strained because the boy is a psychopath. Ugh. The movie ends on what is probably the worst segment of the bunch. I barely even have the willpower the critique this one. It is complete trash.
Unfortunately, XX starts out interesting but then quickly slips into mediocrity and worse. Anthology films are always a mixed bag, and this is one to skip. 3/10