Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
This past January, the female-led horror anthology XX was unleashed on audiences at the Sundance Film Festival. The idea behind the Film is simple — four unconnected stories about women, directed by female Filmmakers and starring female Leads.
Each of the Films are between 10-20 minutes in length, and are each very different in style and scope: The Box concerns a family slowly starving themselves for mysterious reasons; The Birthday Party involves the mishaps Mary (Melanie Lynskey) goes through to create the perfect birthday party for her young daughter; Don’t Fall revolves around a group of friends who discover bizarre ancient symbols on a road trip; and Her Only Living Son involves a single mother, her 18-year-old son and the dangerous deal made during his conception. Each short is bridged together by a Tim Burton-esque stop-motion animated piece from Director Sofia Carrillo.
While I admire the idea behind XX and the bold efforts taken by Directors Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark (aka musician St. Vincent), Roxanne Benjamin and Karyn Kusama, I was left disappointed by the final product. For a horror anthology, it surprised me that each Director’s vision was more abstract and artistic, and none were particularly scary. There are brilliant ideas at play throughout each of the Films, but their varying lengths offer very little time for any character to be compelling or even to stand out. With the exception of Clark’s The Birthday Party, each short seems to act more as a set-up for a grander, more engaging feature-length Film (especially Vuckovic’s increasingly-dreadful Toronto-shot The Box).
If the idea behind XX was to showcase the work of unknown female Filmmakers, why not give them the chance to shoot a feature-length, more fully realized version of their story? None of the Films here are given nearly enough time to say everything they possibly can, and it almost feels unfair to judge them. We are intentionally left craving more, which is deeply unsatisfying. If the producers of XX continue making female-driven anthologies like this, there needs to be more substance to their Films. Otherwise, why bother?
Unobstructed View unleashes XX in select theatres starting Friday, February 17, 2017.
Writer/Director Jovanka Vuckovic, Actress Natalie Brown, Producer Karen Shaw and other Cast/Crew members from The Box will be present for the sold-out Opening Night Q&As at the Carlton Cinemas in Toronto!