Dusting Off The Shelf: Letter X

11 Jul

Stewart here…

My NerdLush boss and I had a bizarre quandary to solve: an X-titled film none of us have seen.  There is the X-Men movies, the X-Files movies, heck, even the xXx movies that we have seen.  On the latter end, I was almost ready to bite the bullet and see the new xXx film for here (I ultimately did for a future post in my own blog, but that’s a story for another time), until I realized there is one X-titled movie I know neither of us have seen, but as I asked politely to fill in, I’ll talk about it.  And no, it is not Xanadu (I got hard lines in the sand I refuse to cross, and that’s one).  That movie is the recent horror anthology XX!

Synopsis:  This anthology movie’s big concept is all four parts are directed by women, and we get a big swath of horror tropes covered here.  In the first episode, The Box, a random encounter with a man on a subway holding a large gift box brings a bizarre malady upon a family.  The second, The Birthday Party, has something happen that impedes a mother preparing a birthday party for her daughter.  The third, Don’t Fall, takes a group of friends into the desert for camping, and obviously, horror ensues.  The last one, Her Only Living Son, has a single mother struggling to raise her teenage son, and discovering something is very very VERY wrong with him.

Dealing with kids at a party is the least of her problems.

Why I chose this film:  I happen to get an enjoyment out of horror anthologies, like say the V/H/S or ABCs of Death series, so XX (get it?) seemed like a no-brainer to check out.  Anthologies are a nice playground to see talent you may recognize (or not) play with a short subject through their own lens, and the idea of an anthology of horror shorts from women directors is a novel approach.  There’s not a massive amount of women directors in the horror genre (I only recognized Karyn Kusama, who did Her Only Living Son, instantly from her work on Jennifer’s Body and the really good thriller The Invitation), so XX was at least worth a watch for me.

As for the movie itself, like any anthology, it’s always a toss up which short will stick with a single viewer.  The Body is a slow burner, but one that gets creepier and more unsettling as you watch it.  The Birthday Party (directed by alternative musician St. Vincent) is way more horror-comedy that works on the performance of its lead, Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures), and its climatic joke involving the short’s title.  Don’t Fall might be the weakest of them for me, but more because this one is a standard horror trope just done well than anything else.  The last one is pretty good, putting us in the mindset of someone dealing with a teen boy becoming an adult, albeit with a supernatural turn.

Will I watch it again:  Actually, yes.  The amount of shorts make this an easy burn through at 80 minutes, even with the stop motion sequences that bridge the shorts together.  And unlike say, the recent V/H/S installment, this one felt more substantial.  If the intent was to put more female talent on the map in a genre not really full of them directing these kind of films, then mission accomplished.

This might as well be me 3 days into a road trip.

Why you should watch it too (or run far away!):  If you like horror (and frankly no found footage type stuff), this should be a watch for you.  Outside of the third short and one super creepy gory scene near the end of the first short, it’s not a massive gorefest, but you get some of that too if you want it.  As I said, anthologies can be a mixed bag based on personal preference, but there’s enough variety in this batch of stories to keep things interesting.

What do you think?

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