Horror has a new voice and it’s all woman.
Xx is released on Blu-ray and DVD today, so I thought I’d write this review and share my thoughts.
Warning: contains spoilers for those who’ve not seen it yet.
I soooo wanted to like this movie.
So long now, women have been forced into the shadows unable to have a voice (with a few exceptions) so when I heard that four female directors would team up to deliver a collection of short horror stories for a feature, I was beyond excited about shifting that ‘male gaze’ with a much-needed feminine skew.
I have to say though, I was let down, although only marginally.
Features that contain short stories rarely work in my opinion.
Some come out stronger than others and the overall feel of the feature as a whole is a little unbalanced as a result.
Unfortunately, the weaker of these stories occur at the beginning of the movie.
So, let’s scrutinise this further by examining the shorts in question.
First up we’re presented with…
…which was also written by Jack Ketchum, who has 4 Bram Stoker awards to his name, so he is no stranger to the dark world, but with all due respect to him, I was kind of hoping that these collections would be 100% female orientated.
Not just with the writing but with the writing too and his addition mars this ever-so-slightly.
The Box presents a mysterious story centred around a mysterious red box that a guy is holding on a train.
A boy, Danny asks what’s inside and when he peers in an eerie transformation occurs, where he won’t eat anything anymore.
One by one the other family members succumb to this strange ‘virus’, all except the mother played by Natalie Brown (Channel Zero: Candle Cove).
The family end up starving to death, and the mother is left wandering the tubes in search of the man with the box and an answer to the mystery to no avail.
The Box has a cold heart at its core, and whilst it’s interesting enough leaves the viewer feeling a little empty and therefore struggles to pick up any energy moving forward, which it does attempt to do with the more light-hearted….
The Birthday Party
Which stars the wonderful Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures) and it’s refreshing to see her on screen again.
Here she plays Mary, a housewife struggling in a troubled relationship
With her husband, David.
When she finds her husband dead on his home office, she struggles to hide this from her daughter, who just coincidentally is having her birthday party that day.
A sort of warped version of Weekend at Bernie’s, The Birthday unfolds with a comic lilt and is great insight into the vapid world of the social elite told from a mother struggling to keep up with the Joneses and all appearances to be pristine.
Written and directed by Annie Clark from St Vincent, this short feature would be best served as a single entity rather than absorbed in this group.
It’s certainly not a horror film despite it shedding light on a much heightened side of society, but by sitting alongside its fellow shorts here, it feels and makes the complete picture incredibly disjointed.
Written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, the third instalment feels like a nod to old school horror, and is quirky enough to stand out here, but rather than push the feature on in a stronger direction, it limps towards the finish line.
Set in remote desert, four campers encounter a creature that kills them one by one.
It has its funny moments of banter in the dialogue, but the care factor for the characters are low and because of this lack of engagement it’s hard for the viewer to empathise with their plight.
With more room to breathe and a possible feature in her hands, director Benjamin could still be someone to look out for as it does feel that she has more to say, and there’s enough in her writing that makes me willing to listen.
Onto the final instalment…
Her Only Living Son
Thank God for Karyn Kusama.
Just when it feels like XX is dying out with a whimper the director of the brilliant The Invitation comes along with the final offering and you can certainly see that she owns her craft and her skillet is a lot higher than her female counterparts.
Her Only Living Son is a glorious tale of a mother who soon discovers that her suspicions about her son being the spawn of Satan are true.
I have to commend the performance from Christina Kirk as the matriarch caught between the love of her son and knowing that she must prevent the evil from seeping into the world before it’s too late.
It feels like Rosemary’s Baby told from the view of the baby reaching adulthood and that despair of being caught between doing the right thing as painful as that decision may be.
Thankfully Kusama’s story elevates Xx back up to a semi-decent level.
It’s not the best of features and it certainly struggles in places, but it does have its strong points too and by the very nature of its existence, it will have an important place in horror film history.
- Paul Farrell