By Josh Savory
I don’t know if you have the same problem that I do, but it takes me a long time to decide what to watch on Netflix. I mean, thirty-minute chunks of time lost searching through every horror or sci-fi movie until I find something that piques my interest. Although I watch a lot of horror movies, it’s a genre where it’s tough to come up with new ideas. So when I noticed that there was a new horror anthology on Netflix, I had to check it out.
Originally released in February 2017, XX is a horror movie anthology consisting of four twentyish minute shorts that were all directed by women. Because of the success of V/H/S and The ABCs of Death, horror movie anthologies have been slowly back on the rise so it’s no surprise to me that XX came into existence. Women directors have been producing some of the best horror movies in recent years, Julia Ducournau (Raw), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), and The Soska Sisters (American Mary) are a few recent standouts that come to mind. I was looking forward to XX, especially for the talent involved.
Similar to Trick ‘r Treat or V/H/S, XX has an overarching story that plays out between the individual stories. While the story is nothing special, it is memorable for some very disturbing stop-motion-animation featuring a walking dollhouse, which will probably show up in my dreams for a few weeks. Sofia Carrillo beautifully directs and animates these segments, which are short but impactful. Unfortunately, the overarching story of this segment doesn’t hit on the other stories, which addresses themes of motherhood and womanhood.
“The Box” is directed by Jovanka Vuckovic and it is based on a short story by Jack Ketchum of the same name. The story is told from the perspective of Susan, a wife and mother of two. Around Christmastime, her son, Danny, pesters a man on a train to see what is inside of the bright red box.
When Danny sees what’s inside, he decides to stop eating, and Susan’s reaction ends up being the focal point of the story. The pacing of this story and the added bits of intrigue make it the most engaging of the four segments. You’ll find yourself trying to interpret the subtext with this story for a while.
“The Birthday Party” is directed by Annie Clark (yep, St. Vincent) and is about a mother of an upscale neighborhood who finds her husband dead. Comically, she attempts to hide the body from her daughter because it’s her daughter’s birthday. Clark does a great job in her directorial debut, artfully blending the macabre with comedy. Melanie Lynskey, who plays the mother, Mary, deserves special mention for her acting in this short because she’s hilarious.
Her facial expressions and the way she delivers lines infuse another level of comedy. Don’t miss Melanie Lynskey in the Netflix original movie, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, because she’s an amazing and funny actress.
The third segment is “Don’t Fall” and is directed by Roxanne Benjamin. A group of friends go hiking in the desert only to be terrorized by a creature. Unfortunately, while this segment has some amazing monster effects, it is held back by a so-so story, where tension isn’t properly paced within the twenty minute time limit.
Although, it must be noted that Angela Trimbur (Trash Fire, The Final Girls) is in this segment and she does an amazing job playing Jess; her playfulness with her girlfriend and her terror as the short reaches it’s climax are incredibly convincing. She’s an actress I wish was in more movies because she’s great in everything I’ve seen her in.
Karyn Kusama (The Invitation, Girlfight) directs the last segment “Her Only Living Son.” A young man is about to turn eighteen and is getting into some truly disturbing behavior while his mother seems to blow off his actions to protect him from something more sinister.
There’s a possible homage to this segment so the less you know going in, the better the segment is. Kusama knows how to direct for tension, which we already knew from 2015’s The Invitation, but what she can accomplish with only twenty-or-so minutes is fairly astonishing.
XX is a great addition to the ever-growing collection of horror movie anthologies from the past decade. All of the stories did an amazing job of highlighting the perspective of the women they focused on. The thematic scope of these shorts ranges from motherhood to empowerment to societal pressures and the subtext of the stories is really brought to the forefront by all of these talented women who wrote, directed, and acted. For the first ever all-women horror anthology, I think this film deserves more attention and I’m looking forward to the next installment with this idea.
Now playing on Netflix streaming.