PREMATURE EVALUATIONS: XX 2016 dir. Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, Sofia Carrilo, Karyn Kusama

We have seen the statistics about how small of a fraction women filmmakers are in Hollywood. How do we remedy this? Well, in the case of XX, a horror anthology, a group of female filmmakers banded together and made their own film! Inspired by a quote of “Bitches get stuff done”, the group of Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark (recording artist St. Vincent), Sofia Carrillo, and Karyn Kusama banded together to tell some horror tales without the Y chromosome.

XX is a horror anthology, which has been a returning trend with the ABCs of Death, VHS, and TALES OF HALLOWEEN films. This time with the theme of female-centric stories and being written and directed by women. We have four core stories, “The Box”, “The Birthday Party”, “Don’t Fall”, and “Her Only Living Son”, with a haunting stop-motion wrap around told without a spoken word.

“The Box” directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, takes place near Christmas. A family riding home on a train, when the son gets a peek into a stranger’s gift box and is shaken to his core. The mother has to figure out what’s going on as her family is falling apart after this. And it won’t be long for you to be imitating Brad Pitt at the end of SE7EN.

“The Birthday Party” by Annie Clark, proves that even with a little help, children’s birthday parties are beyond stressful.

“Don’t Fall” by Roxanne Benjamin, is the most action packed piece, with a group of friends camping out near some prehistoric wall markings on a rock outcropping.

“Her Only Living Son” by Karyn Kusama, focuses on a mother that is trying to do the best for her son, but sees darkness around him.

Sofia Carrillo’s work on the wrap around segments are off putting and yet have a heart of their own. The creatures involved feel like an early Tim Burton creation, as re-imagined by Guillermo del Toro. There is a sorrowful beauty to them that pulls you in, yet leaving you fearful for what you may see.

Given that the filmmakers didn’t collaborate on their works beforehand, the stories don’t have an over-arching theme to them. Each of them could stand alone as a short film solidly, but feel a bit disjointed as they are pieced together. Given that each segment has its own title card like the others, the individual filmmakers had already inputted their own for their stories. Had something like this been worked out ahead of time, it could have helped each story flow into the next a bit more fluidly. As Vuckovic has said (on the podcast Shock Waves) that if there is a sequel, more coordination upfront will be a priority, so they are aware of their end product.

Parenting is hard. And that is coming from the point of view as a dad. I get off easy, and I still know that it is a hell of a challenge. My wife handles so much shit (literally in some cases), and does it without thanks. (By the way, thank you, Babe! I love you!) One thing that XX taps into perfectly is this fact. Mothers tend to be enveloped by their role as the matriarch, while they still struggle to maintain their own identity. Three of the stories focus on mothers and we get to see what they are willing to do for their families in order to regain a sense of balance. This may not be a groundbreaking thought, but it is important to remind us that mothers sacrifice a lot to ensure things get done.

As a whole, this horror anthology utilizes dark humor and impending dread rather than cheap scares. As it is a more personal film, don’t go in expecting to be jumping left and right. Much like Kusama’s previous THE INVITATION, XX will leave you thinking about it afterward. And while you may not be seeing monsters out of the corner of your eye, it will have you re-evaluating things in your life. This is a quiet and emotional film, so it behooves you to avoid any distractions while taking this one in, as it could severely detract from the experience.

Susan Jacobs “The Box”: Natalie Brown (The Strain, Channel Zero: Candle Cove)
Danny Jacobs “The Box”: Peter DaCunha (12 Monkeys, Reign)
Mary “The Birthday Party”: Melanie Lynskey (Two and A Half Men, HEAVENLY CREATURES)
Carla “The Birthday Party”: Sheila Vand (A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, ARGO)
Paul “Don’t Fall”: Casey Adams (BRIDESMAIDS, THE REVENANT)
Gretchen “Don’t Fall”: Breeda Wool (Betas, UnREAL)
Cora “Her Only Living Son”: Christina Kirk (Powerless, TAKING WOODSTOCK)
Andy “Her Only Living Son”: Kyle Allen (1 NIGHT, The Path)

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