It has to be said that women are underrepresented as creative talents in the horror genre. (Although it could also be said of any other genre that women are underrepresented as directors). In regard to this site, for example, women would be responsible for at generous best 5% of the material reviewed. Certainly there have been some notable examples of women-directed horror output Amy Jones with The Slumber Party Massacre (1982), Kathryn Bigelow with Near Dark (1987), Rachel Talaly with Freddys Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), Holly Dale with Blood & Donuts (1995), Jennifer Kent with The Babadook (2014), Ana Lily Amirpour with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014). Not to mention multiple returnees such as Stephanie Rothman, director of Blood Bath (1966) and The Velvet Vampire (1971); Katt Shea Ruben, director of Stripped to Kill (1987) and The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999); Mary Lambert with Pet Semetary (1989) and several other works; Jennifer Chambers Lynch, director of Boxing Helena (1992) and Chained (2012); Mary Harron with American Psycho (2000) and The Moth Diaries (2011); Marina de Van with a variety of interestingly strange efforts beginning with In My Skin (2002); Lou Simon of Hazmat (2013) and All Girls Weekend (2016); and the Soska Sisters of American Mary (2012) and See No Evil 2 (2014). You could also include those women who partner with men such as Helene Cattet who made Amer (2009) and The Strange Colour of Your Bodys Tears (2013), and Laura Lau of Open Water (2003) and Silent House (2011).
XX should not be confused with the Vin Diesel vehicle xXx (2002), which could be said to exist at opposite end of the spectrum ie. XX celebrates oestrogen in effect, while xXx can be considered a celebration of unleashed testosterone. It brings four women directors together and its entire selling point is a horror anthology directed by women. XX is a film I cheered on for the simple reason that I am a believer in equality and want to see women scaring the pants off audiences just as much as men have had a free reign of doing so to date. On the other hand, I felt somewhat disappointed with XX. The one thing you expected of a film like this is that the womens perspective gives something unique that you would not get from a mans point-of-view but only one of the segments delivers in this regard.
The first episode The Box comes from Jovanka Vuckovic who had previously made three short films but is mostly known in the horror genre as editor of the Toronto-based Rue Morgue magazine and as author of the book Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead (2011). The Box is not a perfect episode but works effectively. I liked the unsettling creepiness that comes as Natalie Brown watches her son, followed by her daughter and husband, cheerfully and deliberately stop eating. I liked the fact that what is inside the box is never seen and what causes the family to decide to stop eating is left unexplained, creating a highly mysterious episode. It is story where all the effect is carried by its sense of disquiet. On the other hand, I also felt that Vuckovic never quite tapped the sense of alienation as much as she could have. For a horror show, the segments horror quotient is on the quiet side the greatest effect comes during a dream sequence where Natalie Brown thinks her family are carving her up and eating her and, as we are all aware, dream sequences in horror films are all about creating an immediate jump in the show where there is not anything elsewhere.
The Birthday Party comes from Annie Clark who had not directed anything previously and better known as a musician who has put out several albums under the stage name of St. Vincent. I would question what this episode is even doing in a horror anthology, as it is more a black comedy about someone trying to deal with an inconvenient dead body. It is as much in horror territory as The Trouble with Harry (1955) or Weekend at Bernies (1989). On its own terms, the episode is okay but Clark never pushes anything to tension or black comedy as you wish she would have done.
Dont Fall comes from Roxanne Benjamin who had produced all of the V/H/S films and had made her directorial debut with the Siren episode of Southbound. This is the episode that closest approaches the territory of a formula horror film I was reminded of the early scenes in the recent The Darkness (2016) a number of times. It is also the weakest card in the deck. The characters are reasonably well drawn but once Breeda Wool becomes possessed and turns into a creature, the piece becomes exceedingly generic and then is over in no time at all.
Her Only Living Son comes from the only woman present to have a reasonable profile beforehand, Karyn Kusam, director of Aeon Flux (2005), Jennifers Body (2009) and The Invitation (2015). This is the strongest episode of the show. As soon becomes apparent, Kusama is making a variant on the Devil Child theme. The episode sort of resembles the scenes in Damien: Omen II (1978) with the Devil Child going through a troubled adolescence as he discovers his destiny, something enabled by a legion of followers seemingly at every turn. That maybe a good dash of Servants of Twilight (1991) with the mother and child on the run from cultists who are certain the child is the Antichrist. I particularly liked the climax the piece reached while a little abrupt, it also has the highly effective moment where Christina Kirk stands up to defy absent deities and devil fathers and declare her right as a mother. It makes this the only episode that skews its theme in a uniquely woman-centric way.