XX (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
XX (2017)

Monster Pictures Australian Bluray release of XX


Film: I have said previously that I love anthology films (the last time with the anthology Torture Garden): one of the things I love about horror is that there is a capacity to tell a quick tale of terror, be it in this way, or even with some of the YouTube shorts that get developed into full length features, like Lights Out, or TV shows like the Twilight Zone and Masters of Horror.

Horror: yeah! Most anthologies have a thematic similarity, like Creepshow’s comic tales from the pen of Stephen King, or Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors train-bound tarot reader of doom, and XX is no exception. As the title may suggest, all the directors of this anthology have a double xx chromosome, or in more general terms, are women. Our directors are writer/ director of Southbound, Roxanne Benjamin; director of Jennifer’s Body and Aeon Flux, Karyn Kusama; musician St. Vincent aka Annie Clark and writer/ director of The Guest, as well as former editor-in-chief of horror magazine, Rue Morgue, Jovanka Vuckovic.

Quite a line up of impressive talent, for sure.

Most anthologies have some kind of connective narrative and in this case it is a mysterious, almost Jan Svankmeyer-ish stop motion of a walking dollhouse created by artist Sofia Carrillo that connects the tales, not so much as an introduction to each one, but instead just as a break in between each story. It looks incredible but doesn’t really seem to have any kind of reverence to the story, though each story seems to be a ‘room’ of the dollhouse.

The stories, though are mostly wonderful.

Danny (Peter DeCunha) looks into terror


First cab off the rank is Vuckovic’s The Box. Based on a story by Jack Ketchum and adapted by Vuckovic, The Box tells of a boy named Danny (Peter DaCunha) who asks a strange man (Michael Dyson) on a train what is in the box he is nursing. The man lets him sneak a peak, and this immediately stops Danny from wanting to eat. Danny slowly starves himself and as he shares his secret, other family members stop eating as well. Will his mother, Susan (Natalie Brown) be able to save her family? Vuckovic has created a true tale of fear here that’s told very matter-of-factly and leave you with a sense of dread, and is probably my favourite of the collection.

The second story is The Birthday Party, co-written by Roxanne Benjamin and director Annie Clark. This is black humour at its finest as it tells the tale of a woman, Mary (Melanie Lynskey) who is holding a party for her daughter Lucy (Sanaa Victoria), when she discovers that her husband, David (Seth Duhame) has inconveniently passed away. The tale then leads into her attempts to hide the body so that Lucy’s party can go on without any interruption… will she be successful? Annie Clark directs Lynskey into some funny physical situations which she takes too like a duck to water, and the whole tale is told with a colour palette that suggests a sugary 60s sitcom. It’s heaps of fun, and a nice break after Vuckovic’s dense tale.

Next is Don’t Fall, written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, which tells of four friends, Paul (Casey Adams), Jess (Angela Trimbur), Jay (Morgan Krantz) and Gretchen (Breeda Wool), who has an abject fear of heights, on a camping trip. Whilst resting against a shallow cave wall, they find an image of several figures painted on one of the walls. During the night, Gretchen is attacked by a creature who looks like one of the painted figures, and she attacks her friends with an animalistic ferocity… will they survive her?

This was my least favourite of the tales as it after the complexity of the first two, it felt a bit empty. If Benjamin was influenced by films like Primal or Dying Breed, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s nicely filmed, but essentially below average.

Last is Her Only Living Son, written and directed by Karyn Kusama, and it’s a tragic tale of a single mother, Cora (Christina Kirk) who is called up to the school as her son, Andy (Kyle Allen), has assaulted another student, but it would appear that the staff of the school aren’t too worried about it… which leads Cora to suspect that he somehow has them under his thrall. She has a horrible suspicion about her boy, which becomes greater when she sees he is developing talons on his hand and feel… could her only son be a Spawn of Satan?

Mary (Melanie Lynskey) has a horrible secret revealed


Kusama’s story is steeped in tragedy, and is well shot and acted well, and is a great way to finish the film after the disappointing third entry.

All in all, the parts of this film make up for a greater whole, and I certainly hope we see an XX2 down the track with some of the directors who were originally proposed when this movie was first announced, like American Mary’s Soska Sisters, Boxing Helena’s Jennifer Lynch and American Psycho’s Mary Harron.

Score: ****1/2

XX Bluray menu screen


Format: On the Australian bluray, this disc runs for approximately 80 minutes and is presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching DTS Digital Surround 5.1 sound.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc is bloated with extras, and it starts with a trailer for the film Raw, before we get to the menu.

The extras are:

Making of the Box looks not just at the making of Vuckovic’s entry, but also the proposal for making an all-female director horror anthology.

XX Set Visit in 360: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Birthday Party takes a look at some of the filming of The Birthday Party with pop-up bits saying who did what… like those old pop-up videos.

Don’t Fall Stunts and Special F/X is a series of stills and behind the scenes stuff on how the effects were done for the Don’t Fall entry.

Behind the Scenes of Her Only Living Son is really just some behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew at work (but with a cool synth score!)

Making of XX: Directors Interviews is a series of interviews with the directors, but what’s great is immediately after that we have Extended Interviews with Karyn Kusama and Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin and Annie Clark and Sofia Carrillo

Trailer: I bet you can guess what this is.

This package also contains a reversible slick for the bluray.

Score: *****

WISIA: Loved it, and I’ll definitely watch it again.

Cora (Christina Kirk) is concerned for her son…

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The VVitch (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Witch (2015)


Film: My journey to see this film is an unusual one. I heard a single track of Mark Korvan’s amazing score, I can’t remember where (it was possibly on the soundtrack-centric, and well worth listening to podcast The Damn Fine Cast) and had to grab the entire soundtrack, on vinyl of course!

Korvan uses a bizarre mix of instruments, including the waterphone and the hurdy-gurdy, to create this soundscape that is bizarre and horrifying, but more importantly, intriguing. As soon as this was released on bluray, I was at my local retailer, eftPOS card at the ready!

Was I disappointed? Not at all!


Set in the early 1600s in New England, The Witch tells of a family who are kicked out of a walled town due to their religious practices differing from the rest of the town. They travel a day by horse and cart away from the town and set up a small farm just outside a large ominous forest.

The eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is playing with the youngest child, a baby when it is snatched by something from right under her nose… literally. Her father, William (Ralph Ineson) and mother, Katherine (Kate Dickie) tell her and the other children, Caleb (Harvey Grimshaw) and twins Mercy (Ellie Granger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) to stay away from the forest.

The isolation and the pain of the missing child start to form cracks in the family’s relationships, and when Caleb disappears, accusation of witch-hood start flying, but is the threat from within the family, or if there really something evil in the woods?


Immediately I have to compliment this film on its visuals. It feels ‘wet’ to watch, and there is this amazing, cloying, claustrophobic feeling throughout the whole film, and that’s an emotional claustrophobia as well!

The acting is all top shelf, which is a great feat considering almost half the cast are young children (I don’t count the baby as one of them, I mean, the actor just played a baby… I hope they don’t get typecast!) and they had to contend with goats, which aren’t the most compliant of animals to have in a film. Also the whole film is performed in Ye Olde English, which takes a few minutes to acclimatise to, but once you get it, you completely understand.

Writer/director Robert Eggars has created a complex film with a very deliberate pacing that is visually beautiful, audibly disturbing (with the aforementioned Korvan’s score) and leaves the viewer relieved with its freeing resolve after spending 90 minutes with a family whose religion and lifestyle is so oppressive.

Score: ***1/2

Format: The review copy was an Australian, region B bluray which also comes with an Ultraviolet copy. The film is presented in a quite beautiful 1.66:1 widescreen with an amazing DTS-HS Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.


Score: *****

Extras: Unfortunately, none.

Score: 0


WISIA: This is a visually beautiful, complex, repeat watcher if there ever was one.