A whorror anthology...

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

Aiming to be the first - but hopefully not the last - of itís kind, XX is a pure female-centric horror anthology (or whorror as one of the director's like to ascribe), containing four roughly 20 minute long tales crafted by an all-female team of directors - but the real question, is it any good?

The Box - A mother (Natalie Brown) and her two children are travelling aboard a busy train when one of the children noseley asks a strange man what is inside the brightly decorated box heís carrying - a decision that will prove fateful.

The Birthday Cake - Waking up ahead of a busy day of arrangements for her daughters soon-to-be seventh birthday, Mary (Melanie Lynskey) finds her husband slumped in a chair, clearly long passed - should she alert the authorities and ruin her daughter's birthday, or wait until the party is over?

Donít Fall - Four carefree teens are out glamping in the starry wilderness, at a site that is seemingly Native American in nature. But during the night, events quickly spiral out of control.

Her Only Living Son - Cora (Christina Kirk) and her nearly adult son (Andy played by Kyle Allen) are living the quiet life away from an estranged father, but when Andy starts lashing out at school something far more sinister is bubbling under the surface.

Horror anthologies arenít exactly a new concept, with horror being a particular genre which seems to attract its collective ilk at quite the steady pace. Though a purely female-driven - both behind the camera and in front - horror anthology is something I donít believe has ever done before in the medium. And whilst in one sense the spin on the concept may indeed be new, the gooey substance within XX is old hat for the most part.

Capturing further personality traits from horror anthology films as a whole, XX is also quite the mixed-bag in terms of quality, with four - roughly 20 minute long - short cinematic pieces, each a unique tale, aiming to capture a subset of the genre with some beautiful and downright creepy stop-motion animation work by Sofia Carrillo intertwining each of the pieces. My personal standouts are its opening act titled ĎThe Boxí which was directed by Jovanka Vuckovic and tackles a subject that slow burns into the audience with a story that will no doubt bury itself under your skin and linger with you far beyond its screen time - in essence the best kind of horror.

XX - Horror Anthology (Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Christina Kirk, Kyle Allen and Breeda Wool)

The other is ĎThe Birthday Cakeí which Iíd be apt to even call a horror, as it sits firmly within the dark comedy spectrum of things. Created by first time writer and director Annie Clark - who usually goes by her musical stage name of St. Vincent - the short piece manages to evoke semblances of Wes Anderson, in its depiction of weird, quirky people in a surreal environment doing downright strange things, whose subject matter even managed to spark a heated conversation with my own family. You would have no clue The Birthday Cake was a filmakers first work as itís far from an amateur creation and will have you invested unto it's bemusing conclusion.

On the flipside of XX we have two far more clichť examples of horror. Donít Fall - which was created by Roxanne Benjamin who also helped write The Birthday Cake and previously worked on a sort-of horror anthology title with 2015ís Southbound - is very much a creature feature, the classic tale of teens in the middle of nowhere each to be abruptly attacked and savagely mutilated by a stalking force. Alas, the short runtime doesnít really give you enough room to become invested in the characters themselves nor fully flesh out all the elements of the monster and its background - thereís sadly just far too much going on within Donít Fall to squeeze within a small segment.

The last segment on the other hand (Her Only Living Son by Karyn Kusama) is probably the most fleshed out of all the pieces, but crucially lacks originality. Retreading the same tired, horror trope of a son who isnít quite right. From Rosemary's Baby to We Need to Talk About Kevin itís a story regurgitated in many forms and Her Only Living Son is merely another to add on that list - albeit a short one.

Special Features

Behind The Scenes - A short vignette providing some footage of the overall scope of the XX horror anthology and re-using some of the interview footage from each director.

Interview with Jovanka Vuckovic & Karyn Kusama - The two women discuss their particular segments in XX (The Box and Her Only Living Son), their history and inspirations from the genre and how they decided upon their particular short film in a roughly 10 minute interview.

Interview with Roxanne Benjamin & St. Vincent - The two women discuss their particular segments in XX (Donít Fall and The Birthday Cake), the challenges in filming and the transformation of the writing process to finished product in a roughly 10 minute interview.

Interview with Sofia Carrillo - Sofia discusses the ideas behind her stop-motion animation work and the journey she went through on acquiring the perfect location in a roughly 10 minute interview

I feel that XX misses a trick by not including any form of a directorís commentary on what is an already collectively short product (roughly 80 mins). They could have even switched it up a bit, and had each director commentate on a film not of their own - to glean a different perspective - or had all four women together for all four segments, and given you a reason to rewatch it all over again.

With creepy animation from the onset, XX does well to initially unsettle you, especially loading its two best ideas at the forefront, providing a great start. Sadly though they canít all be home runs, with the latter two segments placating to the very base of the genre, retreading footprints dug by hundreds before it.

If youíre a fan of horror then XX should already be on your radar, for everyone else itíll be a decision on whether two short films alone are worth your time, as the special features lack any form of directorial commentary to offset what is otherwise a very standard fare.

A DVD review copy of XX was provided by the distributor for review purposes.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    8th May 2017

  • 3 Out of 5 Stars
  • Two shorts felt clichť

    Lack of director's commentary

  • Intertwining animation

    First two shorts

    Some great ideas

Film Info

XX XX
Rating: 15
Release Date: 8th May
Runtime: 1 hr 20 min
Director/s: Jovanka Vuckovic, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin & St. Vincent
Starring: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Christina Kirk, Kyle Allen & Breeda Wool

  • Southbound
  • Creepshow
  • V/H/S

No, theres scenes of violence, gore, cannibalism and death.

Initially announced in 2013 with Jennifer Lynch, Mary Harron, Karyn Kusama, Jen and Sylvia Soska, and Jovanka Vuckovic as directors on the project. Of the six, only Kusama and Vuckovic would eventually direct segments.

St. Vincent also provided some music within her short.

Karyn Kusama also directs a lot of television work including episodes of Billions, The Man in the High Castle and Masters of Sex.