Sunday, July 30, 2017

Movie Review: "XX" (2017)

Director: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, & Jovanka Vuckovic
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

An anthology featuring four horror short films from four different female directors.

Being an anthology, "XX" features four short stories, each by different female directors. In between each film is a creepy stop-motion interlude to transition one story to the next.

The first short is called "The Box," which is written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic. It tells the story of a mother named Susan and her family. On a train ride home during the holidays, Susan's son inquires about a present sitting in a stranger's lap. Upon looking inside, he immediately stops eating altogether. As with most shorts, there isn't always a lot of time for explaining events in great detail, and if you are looking for an explanation in this particular story, you won't find it. This is a psychological horror about a mother dealing with the guilt of having concerns for her own needs and sometimes resenting her children. This first one is a bit of a slow burn horror that only enters into a disgusting gore-fest for one single sequence.

The second film in the anthology is "The Birthday Party," which is written and directed by Annie Clark. This segment stars Melanie Lynskey and is more of a dark comedy than a straight-up horror. Again, this story is about a mother who is throwing a birthday party for her daughter. A short time before the party is set to begin, she discovers that her husband, whom she thought was away on business, is not only back home, but is also dead from an apparent overdose. Now, this frantic mother and recent widow must hide this secret or potentially ruin her daughter's birthday. Much of this short involves Melanie Lynskey playing "hide the body" with her husband's limp corpse, which is darkly funny. This plays on the fear parents may have of doing something that will permanently scar their child.

Next up is "Don't Fall," written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin. This one involves four friends out in the desert on a camping trip. They stumble upon some old cave painting of evil spirits, which inexplicably turn one of the friends into a blood thirsty monster. Again, if you are looking to have every detail explained, short films may not be the medium for you. This is your basic creature feature with a lot of screaming and a lot of blood. This is a simple story that's not especially deep but is a super fun installment.

Finally, there is "Her Only Living Son," written and directed by Karyn Kusama. A woman has been hiding out for the last 18 years trying to keep her son safe from someone or something. Now that her son is becoming a man, it starts to become clear that he is a sadistic psychopath. He likes to cause others pain for his own enjoyment. The question is, how far will this mother go to keep her son safe? This short is our favorite of the series. It's clear that it has some inspiration from a specific classic horror picture. It could almost play as an indirect sequel to that particular legendary piece of cinema (which we can't disclose for spoiler purposes). Once you see it, you will know exactly what movie we are talking about. This is a bloody, awesome short film with a twisted premise that slowly unfolds to its creepy climax.

Like most anthologies, some of the shorts in "XX" are stronger than others. The weaker installments do drag the film down a little bit when looking at it as a whole. In the end, this is a solid anthology horror; it's definitely one of the better ones we've seen.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 4.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 72%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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