XX is an omnibus horror movie and those are always pretty sketchy in terms of quality, but XX has a hook I couldn’t resist. All four of the shorts included in this omnibus are written and directed by a woman and they all feature a main female character. It’s an interesting idea, a specifically and purposely female take on horror. Unfortunately, it’s way more interesting as an idea than it is as a movie. The segments are sketchy. The first one, directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, is easily the best; it’s the story of a mother who slowly finds her family slipping out of her control after her son has a chance encounter on the subway and decides to just stop eating. It’s a really striking concept; the son sees the contents of a box and refuses to say what he saw or why he’s not eating, but he’s slowly wasting away. It’s really well directed, scored and performed and it’s the only one of the four that really has atmosphere; it’s very creepy and unsettling, though it whiffs the ending; I have an idea for a much better and more beautiful ending. The central performance by Natalie Brown is gorgeous and compelling. The second story, directed by Annie Clark, St. Vincent herself, is the worst; it’s the seemingly obligatory “comedy” story of the omnibus and it’s really awful, though it does have one good joke: extremely loud musical stings when nothing happens. A woman will pour a cup of coffee and then when she sets the cup down, there’s a deafening jump-scare chord; it’s a good joke. The third story is about a group of young campers who stumble on an ancient Indian curse or something; the creature effects are super-good and all practical. The fourth story is pretty good; it’s directed by Kusama, who had a bit of success with her indie horror film, The Invitation, last year. It’s about a mother who finds herself facing the painful reality that her son is a budding serial killer or, in an unnecessary supernatural twist, maybe something worse. This one could have been really good; it has an incredibly frightening initial set up – the idea of a mother realizing that her son is growing up a sociopath and being unable to do anything to stop it is terrifying, but the short goes in a more supernatural way when I think keeping it grounded in reality would be even more frightening. Anyway, it’s an interesting idea for sure. Of the four shorts, one is very good, two are predictable but entertaining enough & one is really terrible. I’m glad I saw it and it’s put Vuckovic on my list of directors to keep an eye on, but it ultimately falls prey to the typical traps of a horror omnibus. It doesn’t come together and it’s, taken as a whole, pretty mediocre, just like horror omnibus films directed by men. That’s probably not the gender equality they were looking for, but I guess getting the chance to be mediocre is worth something. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – omnibus of female helmed horror shorts is intriguing in concept, but lacking in execution; one short is terrific, but the rest are variable and the film as a whole is mediocre. 2 ½ stars.