Women directors are largely underrepresented in the horror genre, despite the amount of women who appear in horror films. This is a wrong that the anthology “XX” takes a stab at correcting, featuring four short horror films written and directed by women.
Despite the variations among the project, common themes around families and femininity emerge. Jovanka Vuckovic’s adaptation of a Jack Ketchum short story, “The Box,” is a moody, haunting take on motherhood and nourishment.
Annie Clark, better known as the musician St. Vincent, delivers the wry, darkly comic “The Birthday Party,” starring the great Melanie Lynskey as a frazzled housewife struggling to keep up appearances. The film is more funny than horrific, but the highly stylized aesthetic and deft management of tone shows plenty of promise should Clark tackle a feature.
Roxanne Benjamin’s “Don’t Fall,” starring Breeda Wool, is an ’80s-style creature feature with an ancient tribal twist on the monstrous-feminine. It’s the most action-packed, and the world here feels the largest.
But the crown jewel of “XX” is from the enormously talented Karyn Kusama. “Her Only Living Son” is a foreboding and creepy reimagining of “Rosemary’s Baby,” anchored by Christina Kirk’s stunning performance.
A delicately morbid and mesmerizingly beautiful stop-motion animation piece by Sofia Carrillo carefully sews the four films together, featuring cheerfully dismembered dolls, dead birds and rotting apples.
It’s fascinating to observe how the feminine perspectives of “XX” create for powerfully compelling and original horror tales that operate within the genre while testing the boundaries of traditional storytelling and style. It’s an argument for inclusion and a celebration of unique female voices in this world.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Rating: R, for horror violence, language and brief drug use
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; The Frida Cinema, Santa Ana