So, apparently February is Women in Horror Month which makes it all the more appropriate that I am reviewing an anthology film that was helmed by all female directors and casts females in the lead roles. I know I’m not the only one who had been looking forward to this one since it was first announced some time ago, so imagine my surprise when I ended the movie feeling a bit underwhelmed.
Comprised of 4 directors, each segment ran anywhere between 15-20 min long (I believe the last one was the longest), which still didn’t feel like enough time for some of these stories to be fleshed out enough to be memorable for me. And all were bridged by these creepy as hell stop-motion scenes from Mexican animator, Sofia Carrillo.
Jovanka Vuckovic’s segment The Box, which was based off the Jack Ketchum short started us off on an eerie note with the story of a boy who, after looking in a box that a stranger is holding while on the subway, refuses to eat and begins to starve himself. The mother (played by The Strain’s Natalie Brown), soon watches her daughter and husband start to starve themselves as well. It’s an effectively grim story, but left me wanting to know more about what was going on and I just never got that, unfortunately. It did have that ever-present sense of dread and fear that we all know and love, so I can appreciate that about this one. I will say that the withered look the children and husband start to have the longer they go without eating is pretty damn creepy.
Annie Clark’s (St. Vincent) short, The Birthday Party, was probably my least favorite and the least “horror” of the 4; it felt more like a black comedy. Clark tells us the story of an anxiety-riddled mother (Melanie Lynskey) who’s planning her daughter’s birthday party when she discovers her husband dead in his office. What follows is almost a comedy of errors as we watch her try to hide his body to keep her daughter’s day as perfect as possible. This one left me feeling the most underwhelmed. It was a fun concept and had a really cool style to it, but the payoff just fell flat for me.
Roxanne Benjamin’s (Southbound) short, Don’t Fall, felt the most “standard” horror of the four and the one that actually spooked me the most. We follow four friends as they spend the day/evening hiking in the desert. After stumbling upon strange petroglyphs on a rock wall, something awful comes for them at their camp. Like I said, this one was the most “standard” in the sense that it had a concept we have seen before; creature attacks people in the woods. It wasn’t anything original, but it was pretty damn creepy, and kept my focus from beginning to end, which the previous shorts didn’t quite manage to do. It also had some nice effects for the creature. My only gripe is that just like the others, we don’t get much resolution or explanation by the end.
And finally, we’re treated to Karyn Kusama’s (The Invitation) short, Her Only Living Son, which I believe ran the longest. Much like The Invitation, Kusama’s short brings the tension as we follow a mother/son duo as he’s about to hit his 18th birthday and his behavior becomes increasingly more violent. There was definitely a Rosemary’s Baby/The Omen vibe from this one, which I’m not against because, if you know me, you know I love a good occult background. I won’t spoil too much on this one, but it had its creepy moments and was able to keep me interested throughout, but just like the others, fizzled out at the end which was such a bummer because I had high hopes considering the director and her experience.
I’m not sure if I’m going to be in the minority here for my overall “meh” attitude about the anthology, because I really did go into this with high hopes and I found something to enjoy about each segment, but I guess I was just hoping for something a little bit more. I suppose because as a fellow female, I know in order to be “seen and heard” over a mostly male-dominated industry, you feel like you have to knock it out of the park with anything you do.
While the segments in XX were underwhelming for me, personally, I still am stoked see what all these directors can bring to the horror world individually in the future.