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Friday, February 17, 2017

Sean Kelly

Review: XX

Four female filmmakers direct tales of terror in the anthology film XX. In Jovanka Vucokic's The Box, Susan (Natalie Brown) becomes concerned when her son Danny (Peter DaCunha) suddenly stops eating after peaking in a stranger's box, with the affliction slowly spreading to the other members of the family. In Annie Clark's The Birthday Party, Mary (Melanie Lynskey) is busy preparing for her daughter's birthday party. However, she makes a dark discovery, which she desperately tries to keep secret. In Roxanne Benjamin's Don't Fall, four friends go on a camping trip off the beaten past and discovery the consequences of trespassing on sacred ground. Finally, in Karyn Kusama's Her Only Living Son, Cora (Christina Kirk) is desperate to prevent the dark destiny for her 18 year old son Andy (Kyle Allen).

XX is an anthology horror film that celebrates the female filmmakers in the genre. Joined together by a stop motion framing story involving a sentient dollhouse on a quest, these four dark tales all centre around female protagonists, with some even featuring feminist messages.

XX starts off strong with Twilight Zone-like story The Box, directed by Toronto-based filmmaker Jovanka Vucokic (The Captured Bird). Based on the short story by Jack Ketchum, The Box focuses on Susan, who becomes concerned when her son Danny suddenly stops eating after seeing the contents of the mysterious box. As the other family members learn Danny's secret, they too stop eating. This segment appropriately keeps it ambiguous what was in the box, though there is a possible hint through a surreal and gory dream sequence.

Things lighten up with with the second segment The Birthday Party, which is directorial debut for Annie Clark, better known as the musician St. Vincent. Much more dark comedy than horror, The Birthday Party focuses on house Mary desperately trying to hide a dark secret from her daughter's birthday party. The Birthday Party is notable for effective score and odd supporting characters, which includes Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) as Mary's housekeeper Carla. While a bit on the weird side, The Birthday Party does have one quite effective ending.

Arguably the best segment of XX is Don't Fall by Roxanne Benjamin (Soundbound). Gretchen (Breeda Wool), Paul (Casey Adams), Jay (Morgan Krantz), and Jess (Angela Trimbur) are four friends going camping in an area off the beaten path. Easily scared Gretchen gets bitten by something and notices some weird paintings on the side of the wall. As night fall, the four learn that this shouldn't be land that they are trespassing on. Out of all the segments in XX, Don't Fall is the one that is the most undeniably horror. Featuring some great creature effects and gore, this is undoubtedly the most thrilling of the bunch. The only hiccup is the odd effect that is noticeably CGI.

For the final segment Her Only Living Son, Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body) crafts a tale that is pretty much a theoretical follow-up to Rosemary's Baby. While the character names are different, the plot of Her Only Living Son is undoubtedly making references to Roman Polanski's film, as it asks the question of what it would be like if Rosemary went on the run with his devil spawn son. However, while Rosemary was a helpless woman, Cora is a much stronger woman, who is not about to let Adam's father take him, after she has done all the hard work. This arguably makes Her Only Living Son the most feminist segment of this anthology.

As with most horror anthologies, XX is a film that can be a little hit or miss. However, with horror often being viewed as a male-dominated genre, XX can be seen as an important film that highlights the many female horror filmmakers. In fact, since there are many more female horror directors out there, I wouldn't be surprised if this anthology generates a sequel in the future.

8 / 10 stars
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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).