Director: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Jovanka Vuckovic
Cast: Natalie Brown, Jonathan Watton, Peter DaCunha, Peyton Kennedy, Melanie Lynskey, Sheila Vand
Watch XX online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The female chromosome is an entity in biology that is to be greatly admired: if we’re fortunate enough, we all interact with one – and let’s face it, we all come from one. However, a female chromosome that is not destined to achieve the same level of success is XX – a film featuring four 20-minute horror shorts. The collection explores various levels of the gothic, gory and grotesque, with four female filmmakers adapting short stories for the silver screen.
The introductory film is titled The Box, and focuses on a young boy whose curiosity gets the better of him, when – after peering into a mysterious man’s box – he suddenly stops eating. His father continues to worry, eventually unable to eat himself due to the continuous guilt, but the boy’s mother never seems to lose her appetite. The concept for this first short is by far the most interesting, but, despite a truly intense build-up, an inconclusive climax leaves you feeling rather unfulfilled.
The second, titled The Birthday Party, is sadly the anthology’s most disappointing. Set in a somewhat cartoon-like future, it stars Australian actress Melanie Lynskey as an amenable mother, who hosts an elaborate birthday party for her young daughter – typically ordinary until she discovers her husband’s dead body in the next room. Despite an interesting cast (the short also stars A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’s Shelia Vand), and a script directed by musician St. Vincent – aka. Annie Clarke – the film is by no way intriguing nor funny enough to keep you compelled.
Don’t Fall, the third short, goes down a more sinister route, after a group of hiking friends come across an animalistic creature that turns one of the gang into a flesh-ripping zombie. The film is reminiscent of a 70s, cannibalistic vibe, emulating the likes of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Despite a rather uninspiring narrative, the film is by far the most appealing to the conventional horror fan.
The final of XX’s four films is Her Only Living Son, an atypical coming-of-age story about an illegitimate son, whose looming 18th birthday becomes the day his mother has dreaded all his life. This concluding story is perhaps the compendium’s most humane, blatantly borrowing inspiration from the likes of We Need to Talk About Kevin and Rosemary’s Baby. However, once again, another unanswered conclusion leaves you feeling sadly underwhelmed.
Despite there being some positives with XX, there are sadly more negatives. One of XX’s overall issues is it being quite possibly one of the whitest film in recent years, with not a single non-white character appearing. While the film’s central characters are of a mainstream and commercial set, it’s quite hard to believe that a family living in New York City or a wealthy businesswoman residing in a futuristic setting would only be surrounded by Caucasians.
The concept of an anthology film is quite refreshing in this day and age, and, going in, you do have high hopes that the film mirrors more along the line of Creepshow as opposed to the forgettable The ABCs of Death. There are some intriguing elements to the film that do stop you from wanting to give up entirely – one of them being some genuinely grotesque body horror – and a couple of gasping moments here and there. The film’s main appeal is unquestionably its all-female gang in the writing and directing room. However, despite its chromosome appeal, there isn’t enough to keep you completely latched on.
XX is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
Where can I watch XX on pay-per-view VOD?