Circle Cinema saw the release of XX this past weekend, an event made extra special due to the fact that it was directed in part by Tulsa native Annie Clark. Written and directed by only women, the movie acts as a four part anthology series, each segment having a different storyline but unified through the horror genre. By far the best part of the movie were the interludes between the shorts, which saw a strange dollhouse coming alive and interacting with the abandoned mansion it resided in. But was it worth devoting a whole Friday night to? Well, the verdict is in: while the movie may be perfect for a late night Netflix watch, it is not worth the price of admission to see it in a theatre on a Friday night.
The first short, “The Box”, was adapted and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic and told the story of a family of four plagued by the mysterious contents of a box, causing each person to stop eating until it became fatal. The plot held the suspense throughout the short, holding onto the secret of the what was in the box as its effect spread from family member to family member, which kept everyone interested and on the edge of their seats. The acting wasn’t bad either, minus the little girl whose sole purpose in the story seemed to be to eat like a pig until she suddenly stopped and then died.
What spoiled the movie was the ending, which left the story on a cliffhanger. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can actually be very impactful when done right, but in this instance, it was not. The short made every effort to wrap up all loose ends of the story except for the contents of the box and then shifted the entire focus to that box in the last couple minutes, which did not run over very smoothly and felt very melodramatic. This, coupled with awkward camera shots and voice overs, gave the impression that the story was left on a cliffhanger just for the sake of leaving a story on a cliffhanger.
The next short, “The Birthday Party,” was co-written by Clark and Roxanne Benjamin and directed by Clark. Now, to Clark’s credit, the problem with the short was the plot, which was really unbelievable and almost laughable, not the directing. A story about a woman who hides the suicide of her husband so her daughter can have a good birthday might work as a twisted black comedy but not as a serious and suspenseful horror story, as it was portrayed.
The whole short was spent following the woman dragging her dead husband, hiding from party goers, matched to some suspenseful music. And of course everyone found out at the end and madness ensued because no one would’ve seen that coming. Add in mediocre acting and strange costume choices (one kid was dressed as a toilet??) and the overall product just didn’t quite hit the target.
The next short, “Don’t Fall,” was arguably the best short out of the bunch. Definitely the scariest. Written and directed by Benjamin, the story follows four young hikers as they traverse through barren canyons, unbeknownst to them that the land was cursed by the indigenous people who once lived there. The spirit of a demon possesses one of the campers and the bloodbath begins.
The whole tale was very creepy and built the suspense perfectly. The actors were likeable and believable, which made watching watching them get torn to pieces even more cringe worthy. The best part was the creature, though. Watching her crawl around and pop out at her poor friends kept the hearts pounding and the screams coming. The whole thing made for a very enjoyable thrill ride.
The last short, “Her Only Living Son,” was written and directed by Karyn Kusama. While it didn’t live up to the thrill of the previous short, it was able to hold its own. It told the story of a woman whose son, born to be the Antichrist, has finally reached maturity and is ready to be claimed by his birth father. The mother then must fight to keep her son or else lose him to evil and trigger the apocalypse.
The plot was solid, but it was the acting of the mother that really shone through. The weight of her struggle radiated with every movement, and her love for her son and her determination to save her resonate with the audience. The rest of the cast seem to fall short compared to her, but that didn’t matter because she carried the story with ease.
Overall, while there were some notable moments, the whole movie just seemed to fall flat, making the price of admission to see it seem questionable. Bottom line: just skip the theatre and just wait until it comes to Netflix.