XX


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XX is a film you may well not have heard of. It featured at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, getting a small US theatrical distribution and is now debuting here in the UK on iTunes and disc. The publicity describes it as a ‘horror anthology featuring four dark tales written and directed by fiercely talented women’ which, considering the male dominated nature of cinema in general and genre cinema in particular, merits interest. I enjoyed much of it and was surprised by some of the reviews on IMDb. The professional critics liked it but the user comments seemed oddly harsh:

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“This is a terrible movie on all levels.”

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“One of the worst things I have ever watched, I couldn’t even make it past the second story.”

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“Nothing of any substance.”

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“This has to be a joke.”

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“Utter bull crap!”

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Reading on though I began to get an idea of what this issue was.

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“When I read this was four horror stories directed by women I assumed it had to be bad.”

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“It has a sexist premise and would not have got critical praise if it was directed by four men without a feminist agenda.”

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“These female directors don’t deserve the right to vote, own property or even be allowed out in public.”

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Misogyny aside then XX is worth a look. The first story, from non-fiction writer Jovanka Vuckovic, runs for about twenty minutes and tells the story of a mother whose son refuses to eat after meeting a stranger with a mysterious box. It is a very simple narrative but draws you in and turns quite grisly in one particular dream sequence. The second, running at a similar time, isn’t really horror at all but has a fairly macabre conceit as a mother finds her husband dead minutes before her daughter’s birthday party. It features a really good performance from Melanie Lynskey (probably still most famous for her turn opposite Kate Winslet in Beautiful Creatures) who plays it with a resigned exhaustion which will resonate with a lot of parents despite the extreme circumstances. The piece comes from the mind of Annie Clark, A.K.A musician St. Vincent and there is a dark humour to the piece.

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These two stories are the best of the four because they feel complete, the others feeling more like part of a larger plot. Roxanne Benjamin who produced the relatively successful V/H/S horror trilogy gives us a ten minute film featuring stoner hikers being terrorised by an ancient Native American spirit in the desert that is okay but is predictable and underwritten. The last segment actually aims to be part of a larger narrative, openly but unofficially picking up on the events of Rosemary’s Baby eighteen years later. Even with this though Karyn Kusama doesn’t really provide enough to fill the half hour running time. It is atmospheric and tense but it isn’t surprising which in itself is surprising as Kusama has the most extensive experience of all of the contributors having previously directed Girlfight, Æon Flux and Jennifer’s Body. 

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The films are linked together but some really creepy and surreal stop motion clips featuring a doll’s house with a doll’s face created by Sofia Carrillo.

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XX is an uneven film but is always interesting and anything that supports female directors and short film making is a good thing. If you are interested in either of these things and can handle horror then I suggest you give it 20, 20, 10 and 30 minutes of your time. Unless you are a chauvinist in which case get off my blog.

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