I’m a fan of anthology horror movies.

Whenever I see a new one coming out, my mind immediately recalls those happy memories of watching classics like Creepshow and Trick r’ Treat, Trilogy of Terror, and lesser but still enjoyable ones like Nightmares or Tales from the Darkside (the TV series is better).

I was excited about XX because the movie is written and directed by women, who always offer a unique and welcome point-of-view in horror films, and whose filmmaking skills are tragically underrepresented in general. Horror works best when it comes from an emotional core, and women directors are generally better at executing this than men.

XX is comprised of four horror tales that unspool over the course of about ninety minutes, so all the tales are short and to the point. The film’s directors are: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, and Jovanka Vuckovic.

If only those tales were better.

The best by far is the first. “The Box” is based on a story by legendary scribe Jack Ketchum and written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic. It’s a dark and deeply disturbing tale that answers the classic question, “What’s in the box?” – the question this time around posed by a child to a stranger on the subway. The contents of said box – and the ruinous effects it has in store – are perfectly captured in scenes of pure nightmare fuel. If only the other stories lived up to this one.

“The Birthday Party” takes a lighter tone, and the dark humor works well, but the logic of the story? Not so much. Still, it’s my second favorite segment of the film, due mainly to the fine work of Melanie Lynskey (I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore) who portrays a put-upon mother trying to pull off a birthday party for her daughter, with absurdly dark results.

“Don’t Fall,” is a bit of a slog. Written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin (she wrote “The Birthday Party” segment as well) the story follows four friends on a weekend camping excursion that lands them on some sort of sacred tribal ground where things go…. pretty much as you’d expect. There’s nothing in this story we horror fans haven’t seen before. Many, many times before.

“Her Only Living Son” is a take on another familiar horror trope, but the emotions surrounding the main character worked well, particularly the ending. Overall, it’s not bad, but it fell short for me in several areas.

Bookending the film is a disturbing stop-motion animation sequence that tells its own tale as it threads between the segments. It’s impressive and creepy, and is very effective at setting the mood of the film.

Despite its overall flaws, the first two segments of the film are worth checking out, and I’d like to see what this group of filmmakers does next, separately or together.

XX is currently streaming on Netflix.

Thanks for reading, Deadies!


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