Failure was Never an Option; ‘XX’ Gives the Ladies a Chance to Shine (Review)
Directed by: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Jovanka Vuckovic
Cast: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk, Kyle Allen
We’ve all heard the hype surrounding this anthology, directed by women exclusively, and we’ve probably all wondered just what we were in store for. I doubt many fans formed premature opinions about the film because women were directing the full flick, I think most have just come to anticipate up-and-down affairs when it comes to anthologies. Finding a consistently impressive anthology feels like a near-impossibility. Well, the ladies behind the camera for XX offer up one extremely spirited effort to deliver a well-rounded, dependably entertaining flick.
It turns out XX is one of the better anthologies released in recent memory, behind perhaps Southbound and The Dark Tapes alone. That’s an impressive accomplishment.
Roxanne Benjamin (Don’t Fall), Karyn Kusama (Her Only Living Son), St. Vincent (The Birthday Party) and Jovanka Vuckovic (The Box) never feel the need to force any feminism on viewers, they’re simply here to deliver kick ass horror, and that they do. While the stories lack much of a binding factor, there is a familial theme that courses through the picture, though it sometimes goes emphasized and sometimes it slips right into frame in discreet fashion.
But enough about the films glue. The shorts are where the joy is at.
If you’re hanging out on our growing little website you know we prefer to avoid spoilers, but gifting you a general idea of what each tale is about shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
The Box, as we open with, tells the story of a mother who is forced to slowly watch her family starve. It’s an emotional segment, and there’s an air of ambiguity to the conflict itself that proves remarkably intriguing. If there’s any story in this lineup that leaves you craving answers, it’s probably going to be this beauty.
Moving on we get to The Birthday Party, which is an off-beat humorous piece about a mother who’s trying desperately to hold it together when her marriage begins to… melt, shall we say, on her daughter’s birthday. It’s perfectly quirky and manages to feel quite atypical of most horror we see these days.
And then we transition into the insane affair of the quartet, Don’t Fall. I refuse to get too deep into the details of this one, as I found it to be an absolute blast, but I will say this: here there be monsters!
And finally, we get to the darkest tale in the lot, Her Only Living Son, which plays on ideas properly explored many moons ago in Rosemary’s Baby. I think this tale could have benefitted from a few extra minutes in order to flesh the story and characters out a bit more, but it’s effective as it stands, and it’s hard to miss the story’s big message.
From top to bottom we get some great performers. Melanie Lynskey is brilliantly flustered in The Birthday Party and Natalie Brown taps into a deep sadness while portraying a haunted mother in The Box. The ensemble in Don’t Fall are all solid, but the story speeds along at such a rate that viewers care less about the characters and more about the conflict itself. Nothing wrong with that. Finally, we get an amazing duo in Christina Kirk and Kyle Allen who feed perfectly off one another in Her Only Living Son. On the acting front, XX gets an enthusiastic thumbs up, no two ways about it.
It’s great to see Jack Ketchum’s tale The Box make the cut, but the ladies of this group handled plenty of their own screenwriting, and it’s successful. There are no blatantly lazy script maneuvers and the dialogue is natural across the board. Without some of the very organic exchanges in the film XX may have suffered, but alas, failure – to any degree – was clearly never an option for this group of amazingly talented women!
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