Plot: As this is a horror anthology, we have four short stories that are joined by a wraparound piece, of sorts. A creepy living dollhouse is featured in short clips before and after the shorts, as it does, well…whatever creepy living dollhouses do. The first short is The Box, which starts with a mother and her two children on a subway ride, next to a man holding a red box. The son is too curious and has to ask what it inside, so the man lifts the lid a little, letting him see inside. After he peeks inside, the young boy seems disturbed and that night, refuses to eat his dinner. As time passes and he continues to refuse to eat, it becomes clear there’s more going on than meets the eye. Next is The Birthday Party, in which a mother is preparing for her daughter’s birthday party, only to find her husband has died at his desk. Not wanting to ruin her child’s birthday, she tries to mask the death, but how long can she keep it a secret? Next up is Don’t Fall, which follows four hipsters out in nature looking for a good time, only to discover some eerie, ancient symbols on a rock. Are the symbols just the work of some prankster, or is there an old spirit in the area? The final short is Her Only Living Son, in which a mother tries to cope with the strange, sinister behavior of her son, as well as the unusual reactions from those around them.
Entertainment Value: I do love a good horror anthology and in XX, we have a terrific one that hits some unique beats. A lot of the talk around XX is about how all the shorts were written and directed by females, which is indeed quite cool. But beyond that, we have an interesting, varied collection of horror shorts, surrounded by some creepy, super cool animation. The dollhouse segments are fantastic, with lush visuals and atmosphere, not to be lost in the shuffle here. The four shorts are also quite good, though as usual with anthologies, some are better than others. Some push you to think, others just want to entertain, its an effective blend of approaches. I think The Box remains my personal favorite, but I found them all to be well crafted and that includes the dollhouse scenes, which are as good as any of the main shorts. The cast of course varies between shorts, but Melanie Lynskey’s performance stands out to me, with a sense of calm waters on the surface, while a hurricane of panic raged just beneath. XX proves to be one of the better horror anthologies around, with a great blend of techniques and styles that offers a little something for every kind of horror fan, I think. I’d say anyone with an interest in the genre should give this a look.
No nakedness. Some blood is present, but not much. The third and fourth shorts kick in some of the red stuff, with Don’t Fall as the bloodiest of the lot. The creature in that short is also fun to watch, with all weird movements you’d expect from a being that can walk up and down cliffs. As I said, the blood isn’t that prevalent and never graphic, so don’t expect a bloodbath here. These stories are well written, but don’t often provide the campy, over the top lines we love here. The Birthday Party has some absurd moments, but not in terms of dialogue so much. So good writing across the board, just not many memorable or wacky lines to mention. As far as craziness, the emaciated kids in The Box are super creepy, the dollhouse scenes are pretty insane, and that’s about it. So a solid point of craziness, which isn’t bad for a mostly serious (overly so in the case of Her Only Living Son) collection of horror shorts.
Overall Insanity: 1/10