XX is a 2017 American anthology horror film directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin and Karyn Kusama. It stars Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool and Christina Kirk. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017, and was released in a limited release and through video on demand by Magnet Releasing on February 17, 2017.
Directed by Sofia Carrillo
The anthology is framed by stop-motion-animated segments depicting a walking dollhouse with a blinking doll face on it. A doll hand separate, but also living, moves from its drawer and scurries around collecting items the dollhouse finds. Within its interior, various objects and items are shown including: a cabinet where bugs and moths enter acting as a stomach of sorts, a room with living sewing needles that make tiny tapestries, and a room with a morphing apple that seems to act as the dollhouse’s heart. Eventually, the dollhouse finds a small blackbird (whether it is stuffed or an actual dead bird is ambiguous). The dollhouse places the bird into a baby doll and upon it crying immediately removes the bird and enters a room with an unconscious girl. The girl has a small door on her chest and the dollhouse places the bird inside it. After a while, the girl awakens, pleasing the dollhouse.
Written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, based on the short story by Jack Ketchum
While riding on a train with his mother Susan, a young boy, Danny, sees an old man with a red box; the old man describes it as “a present” and allows Danny to look inside. After looking, Danny refuses to eat any food presented to him. Susan and her husband Robert start to worry about him, taking him to a doctor who finds that Danny has lost five pounds since his last checkup. Danny speaks with his sister Jenny, and soon after, she refuses to eat as well. Robert attempts to speak to Danny about his refusal to eat, but Danny whispers something in his ear, which causes Robert to start refusing food.
Susan is haunted by a dream of her family happily eating her at the dinner table. When she sees Danny, Jenny and Robert eating happily, Susan smiles, happy that her husband and kids are finally eating again.
Come Christmas, Danny, Jenny, and Robert are all emaciated, but don’t seem to mind. Danny hands Susan a present wrapped in a red box. Susan recalls the incident on the train and connects the dots. When Susan asks Danny what was in the box, he tells her it was “nothing.” Susan reveals in a voice-over that all three members of her family later died of starvation: Danny first, then Jenny, then Robert. She is now searching the trains for the man with the box, still wanting to know what is inside, as she feels it is the only way to get close to her family now.
The Birthday Party
Written by Roxanne Benjamin and Annie Clark, directed by Annie Clark
Mary is attempting to hold a birthday party for her daughter Lucy, but when she finds her husband David dead in his home office, she decides to hide the body instead of calling 911. She spends the day frantically trying to conceal David’s body from Lucy, nanny Carla, and neighbor Madeleine. She finally buys a panda costume off of a man who comes to sing Lucy a birthday song, and hides the body in the costume.
During the party, Mary does not have time to move the costumed body and is forced to set it up on a seat at the table. Carla bumps the costume, causing it to collapse into Lucy’s birthday cake. The body is discovered when Carla, attempting to lift the Panda, accidentally removes the head, and the full title of the film is revealed as the children scream in terror: The Birthday Party, or, The Memory Lucy Suppressed From Her Seventh Birthday That Wasn’t Really Her Mom’s Fault (Even Though Her Therapist Says It’s Probably Why She Fears Intimacy).
Written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin
Four friends – Paul, Gretchen, Jess, and Jay – are all on an expedition out in the desert. Gretchen is afraid of heights. The four discover an ancient cave painting depicting an evil spirit before camping out for the night. Gretchen is attacked by a creature similar to the spirit in the painting, which takes over her body and wears her skin. It kills Paul and Jay before chasing Jess, who then falls and breaks her leg. The Gretchen-creature then descends a cliff to kill Jess.
Her Only Living Son
Written and directed by Karyn Kusama
Single mother Cora’s rebellious son, Andy, is about to turn 18. She is called into Andy’s school to meet with the principal regarding an incident in which Andy tore off a classmate’s fingernails. The principal apologizes to Cora that she had to witness an “outburst” from the classmate’s mother, and tells Cora that her son is remarkable. Cora is deeply unnerved that her son appears to have entranced his superiors.
Cora’s mailman Chet hints that Andy is not necessarily her distant former husband’s (an actor) son. Andy – whose voice has changed and finger and toenails have become claws – confirms her suspicions: he is transforming into the spawn of Satan, something she has worried about since before his birth. Andy, embracing his father’s power, forces Cora to bow down to him as Satan enters the house to reclaim him, but she then embraces and quickly tells her son the reason they went into hiding, and asserts that she refuses to give up Andy to his father. Andy, moved, chooses her over his destiny. The two hold each other tight as their bones crack and blood seeps from their noses and mouths until they die from Satan’s assault.
Natalie Brown as Susan Jacobs
Jonathan Watton as Robert Jacobs
Peter DaCunha as Danny Jacobs
Peyton Kennedy as Jenny Jacobs
Ron Lea as Dr. Weller
Michael Dyson as The Man
The Birthday Party
Melanie Lynskey as Mary
Seth Duhame as David
Sanai Victoria as Lucy
Sheila Vand as Carla
Lindsay Burdge as Madeleine
Joe Swanberg as Singing Panda (Uncredited)
Casey Adams as Paul
Breeda Wool as Gretchen
Angela Trimbur as Jess
Morgan Krantz as Jay
Her Only Living Son
Christina Kirk as Cora
Kyle Allen as Andy
Mike Doyle as Chet
Brenda Wehle as Principal Jenks
Morgan Peter Brown as Mr. Dayton
Lisa Renee Pitts as Kelly Withers
Curt Cornelius as Dr. Roman