Interview: XX – 'Women are pissed off and it's starting to come out in the films that are being made'
Annie Clark (St Vincent), Karyn Kusama and Jovanka Vuckovic discuss the first horror anthology written and directed solely by women
As well as being the first horror anthology directed solely by women, XX was also written entirely by women and features a woman in all the lead roles. These were the parameters to which the filmmakers, including Annie Clark (aka musician St Vincent), Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic and Roxanne Benjamin, had to work to. It took Vuckovic and producer Todd Brown quite a while to finally put their project together and there were a few big names attached over the years. Mary Harron and Jennifer Lynch were on board at one point as was the late Antonia Bird who the film is warmly dedicated to.
Three of the shorts focus on motherhood including Kusama's film 'Her Only Living Son'. In part a homage to Rosemary's Baby but equally informed by her personal experience as a mother. 'Now I have a son myself I want him to grow up to be a good person,' explains Kusama. 'It's enormously stressful to bring life into the world and then to have to shepherd it. [The film] is as much about motherhood and sacrifice as it is about the anxieties around having children who develop outside of your control.'
Kusama's last feature film, The Invitation, also featured a sinister cult and she explains why she is so interested in this idea: 'Even though the word cult has such a negative connotation I ultimately think it's a very common thing in our world. Whether you consider it the cult of rampant capitalism, the cult of a military industrial complex or a mass incarceration programme, all of that stuff feels cultish to me because it's based on these very black and white ideas about humanity.'
Vuckovic switched the gender of the protagonist in her adaptation of Jack Ketchum's short story, 'The Box' and she explains that, 'Suddenly it became much more interesting to me because we've all seen stories about men who can't connect with their children because they're at work, but less so about mothers who are busy.'
Clark's absurd black comedy, 'The Birthday Party', marks her directorial debut. It stars Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness, Two and a Half Men) as a mother on the edge who must hide her dead husband's body from her daughter and is a frantic and funny farce. Clark also composed the music 'using a lot of modular synths' and took inspiration for the sound from a record called Electric Lucifer by Bruce Haack.
'It was partly based on a true story that I heard,' says Clark. 'A parent waking up in a house with a dead body and having to make a very split second decision on how to protect a child.'
The mother in Clark's short lives in a literal glass house where there's nowhere to hide. Clark explains the allegorical meaning: 'Real horror to me in the world is how women get trained to be misogynists.' And that is reflected in her film: '[the characters] have so many opportunities to extend a helping hand and they simply don't. That's the real horror of the world, I think.'
The power of women coming together to create art was of the utmost importance to the producers and filmmakers. In simply making the film these women are making a bold feminist statement and as Vuckovic says: 'In essence XX is a reaction. The premiere at Sundance was a day after the Women's March and this gigantic protest against Trump. Women are pissed off and it's starting to come out in their storytelling and the films that are made.'
XX (SODA Pictures) is released on DVD Mon 8 May.