Four short horror films that are directed and written by women.
XX‘s big selling point is that all of the horror shorts contained within were written and directed by women. But are they any good?
Things begin promising enough with The Box, an intriguing but ultimately frustrating tale involving Danny, a young boy who takes up a strangers offer to look into a red box while travelling on the tube. From then on, Danny stops eating and becomes distant. His worried parents continuously ask him what’s wrong, but to no avail. As the days go by, they must discover the mystery of the box before its too late.
Next up is the not-at-all horror Birthday Party, directed by ‘art rocker’ St. Vincent. On the morning of her daughters birthday, Mary finds her husband dead in his office. With the guests starting to arrive for her girls party, how can Mary cover up this incident?
Don’t Fall, the third short, is the most faithful to the genre, but equally the most throwaway. A group of friends go camping in the desert only to find themselves stalked by an ancient evil.
Finally, in Her Only Living Son, Cora begins to worry about her son’s behaviour as his 18th birthday approaches.
Each segment is stylistically different, but Birthday Party is the most aesthetically unique – the exaggerated lighting and pastel colours of the house wouldn’t look out of place in an Urban Outfitters catalogue. As I said, this one isn’t even close to what would be defined as ‘horror’: more of a black humoured drama. It stuck out like a sore thumb from the rest, albeit a sore thumb with fancy decorations.
The Box is far too vague and unsatisfying to be deemed a success, leaving a plethora of unanswered questions which have no chance of ever being resolved. I’m fine with conclusions which allow you to make up your own mind, but the climax seemed to occur simply because of the 20 minute time restraints. Its mysterious nature takes a chunk out of its tension too, as I spent most of the segment wondering what was causing it rather than being worried for the characters.
The third short is the one I’m on the fence about the most. It ticks all the boxes of conventional horror, with an impressive creature and an expendable bunch of college kids. More importantly though it shows huge potential for director Roxanne Benjamin (who had a hand in earlier anthologies Southbound and the V/H/S series) to helm a full length commercial genre flick. It just seems like a wasted opportunity for her to have showcased a more personalised and particular style, rather than one we’ve seen countless times before.
My Only Living Son is probably, on reflection, the strongest of the four. Again though, twenty minutes seems to be too brief for the story being told, and the trimming loses the tension. This one is more reminiscent of recent indie gems The Babadook and Oz Perkins’ February – a slow burning, atmospheric piece with underlying viciousness. Unfortunately, this short doesn’t benefit from what the other two listed films do: room to unfold, and as a result it suffers immensely.
Each story is followed by the wonderfully twisted stop motion work of Sofia Carrillo which look great but don’t relate to any of the shorts, begging the question of their inclusion in the first place.
Ultimately the real disappointment here is the fact that each of these were directed by women makes absolutely no difference to the final product; here we had a perfect opportunity to showcase, even show up, the dominant male directors. Think of it as the movie equivalent to those pre-order character skins that you get with games. It’s cool that it exists, but if you equip it the experience will still be the same.
In this case, a specific gender does not change the usual hit and miss formula seen in anthologies – unfortunately, the X’s in the title are more like missed targets.
Visually striking in places
Difference in styles keeps things interesting
Potential of directors is on show
Not remotely scary - especially Birthday Party, which isn't even horror
Most feel like they should be longer features but butchered into shorts
The fact the directors are women makes absolutely no difference