Five interlocking tales of terror follow the fates of a group of weary travellers who confront their worst nightmares – and darkest secrets – over one long night on a desolate stretch of desert highway.
Anthologies are a hit and miss style. The use of multiple segments means that some of the stories will be better than others. The chances of getting one hundred percent quality is slim to none. There tends to be at least one clunker. It is par for the course when you are investing time in an anthology. You can’t expect perfection.
Southbound is a recent horror anthology that comes from some of the minds behind V/H/S. And like V/H/S, it was an overall good anthology. There were five segments that made up the movie, with each of them connecting through transitions rather than the typical wraparound story. Characters bumped into one another or passed by each other to signal the shifting focus. This was a fairly successful way of building an anthology. It removed the forced dialogue and story setup that comes with wraparounds.
The first segment of Southbound was called The Way Out. It was directed by Radio Silence and written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, one of the collective’s members. The Way Out followed two men, Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Bettinelli-Olpin). They were driving down a desert highway, fleeing from some floating monsters. They soon arrived at a diner and gas station to wash off some blood. When they left, the two men discovered that whatever direction they drove, they always seemed to return to the diner. As this location loop happened, the monsters got closer until… And that’s where I’m stopping, since I do believe that the movie should be seen. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.
Radio Silence is good at setting a tone for their movies, as is apparent in The Way Out. They gave enough information to make you care about the characters while leaving enough mystery to have you relate to their anxiety. You feel like you’re in their shoes and you simply go for the ride. The Way Out didn’t strive to be high art. It strove to be a thrill ride and that was exactly what it was.
The next segment fell into the same thrill ride camp. Siren was written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, with Susan Burke helping with the script. Sadie (Fabianne Therese), Kim (Nathalie Love), and Ava (Hannah Marks) experienced a flat tire while driving on an unknown stretch of highway. A friendly couple (Davey Johnson and Susan Burke) stopped and offered them a ride to their house, where they could get a spare tire. Once at the house, Sadie noticed strange occurrences. Things took a dark turn soon after.
The second segment was perhaps the best of Southbound. The writing of Roxanne Benjamin and Susan Burke paced out the reveals at the right distances to keep the tension rising. Fabianne Therese was captivating and kept you invested in what was happening. The final third took a turn that you’ll probably see coming, but that doesn’t matter. By that point, you’re hooked and will stick around to see it play out. The ending provided a great transition into the next segment.
For the third segment, we got a minimal story called The Accident that was extremely captivating. Lucas (Mather Zickel) was driving along the highway at night when he accidentally hit someone. He had to transport her to the nearest town. When he discovered that there was nobody in the town, he listened to the paramedics on the other end of his cell phone conversation and did whatever medical procedures he had to.
This was a tense, gripping story that managed to thrive on only two primary physical performances. David Bruckner wrote and directed a tight tale of a man’s turmoil at a mistake he made. The extremes that he went through resonate with anyone who has regrets. Zickel performed well, showing the grief, panic, and terror of his character. Again, there were some twists and turns near the end that I don’t want to spoil. It did have some surprising moments that will keep you on your toes.
Jailbreak was the weakest segment of Southbound. Danny (David Yow) stormed into a bar with a shotgun. He was looking for his sister. After shooting one of the patrons, and revealing that the bar was a demon bar, he kidnapped the bartender (Matt Peters) and embarked on a road trip to find his sister. Things happened when they reached their destination.
What let this segment down was the lack of thrilling elements in it. Patrick Horvath wrote something meant for thrills and chills, but none landed when he directed them. The demons weren’t. The story didn’t have any weight to it. It kind of just happened and that was that.
Finally, we come back to Radio Silence for the final segment of Southbound. The Way In was about a family consisting of Daryl (Gerald Downey), Cait (Kate Beahan), and their daughter Jem (Hassie Harrison) as they tried to fight off a group of home invaders. The police couldn’t get there for thirty minutes, so their safety was in their own hands.
Radio Silence gave the bookends to Southbound, both of which played perfectly as an introduction to the world and an exit from it. This segment got emotional, tense, suspenseful, and downright sad. It tied the whole movie together in a way that felt right. Though some characters were silent and wearing masks throughout, you could still feel the emotion behind their actions. They were the bad guys, but at the same time, their actions felt justified.
Southbound was a movie about characters getting their comeuppance. Their actions had severe consequences. It was a fun thrill ride to see the characters learn from their misdeeds. Minus the one underwhelming segment, the entire movie was a solid horror flick worthy of watching. Don’t pass up a chance to see Southbound. It is worth the time.