XX is a horror anthology film that follows 4 female directors telling their own tales of terror. The first short follows a mother and father who notice their son's loss of appetite after peering into an old man's present box on the subway. The second tale follows a distraught and disjointed mother who finds her husband's corpse on the day of her daughter's birthday. The third story follows 4 campers who come across an ancient curse. The fourth short follows a mother raising a sadistic young man who may just have lofty, hellish aspirations.
As is the case with any genre of film, women aren't featured as prominently in the director's chair as men when it comes to horror. However, we have received plenty of films of a high caliber in horror from women. Most notably, American Psycho, Pet Sematary, Ghost in the Machine, and most recently, highly acclaimed The Babadook and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. While all have varying degrees of taste involved, so do most horror movies. I for one enjoy all the films I just listed, and have a great respect for the two most recent installments. While generally received with praise, my personal experience scrounged up some reviews for XX that found it a little unsatisfying. I found the anthology to be phenomenal.
The film's connecting piece is a work of art. It's a stop-motion style using a macabre dollhouse with a life of its own as it wanders a creepy mansion. It doesn't wreak of a clever intertwining of the tales, but it is a pleasure to watch.
The first tale was a very effective take on a fear that all parents have: the failing appetite of a child. Nearly every parent on Earth has experienced a phase in which their child refuses to eat most anything. It feels like a bottomless chore just trying to give your child nourishment. The fear, of course, is, "what if my child refuses to eat, becomes malnourished, and dies?" This short takes that premise and runs down an almost Lovecraftian-type hole, in which the nameless terror causes the loss of appetite and is never revealed. It makes the impact all-the-stronger.
The second tale is our dark humor installment. It was my least favorite of the tales mostly because I failed to understand the motives of any particular individual. Everything is properly implied, but I'm just not getting enough fuel for the engine to drive home the finale. It is a pretty fun short.
The third story gives me my monster fix. I enjoyed this one immensely, though it was the shallowest piece of the four. It was the most straightforward and classless, but that was the intention. The effects work and cinematography is top-notch, but the weak acting was a significant drawback.
The fourth short follows a mother whose son behaves like the spawn of Satan, and may just very well be that. This is a semi-traditional take, as the loving mother latching on to a hellish son is a familiar take in the horror genre. Nonetheless, the short runs its course to a finale that truly entails the difficulties of being a mother in a sadistic and murky fashion.
This anthology as a whole is superb and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the sub genre. The women directors give their eye and personal touch to a perfect delivery of pensive, grotesque, and humorous horror. It's almost like anything we can to do they can do better.