I am just loving the resurgence of the anthology horror genre. Made very popular in the 1980s with films like Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside and Body Bags, the trend is now alive and well with the success of V/H/S and it’s subsequent sequels, as well as the two ABCs Of Death movies. Firstly, it gives well known directors from deep within the genre to put together a short piece that could be the most memorable thing in the film. Secondly, it shines a spotlight on the bright new talent in the industry, like homegrown future horror masters The Soska Sisters and Luchagore Productions.
Southbound is not quite an anthology film, although it comes from the creators of V/H/S and the sequel, it instead has five separate stories that intersect with each other, two of which are directly related. It reminded me of a movie from 2007 called The Signal, which actually came from the mind of one of the same filmmakers, David Bruckner, using intersecting stories to tell a full story – about the end of the world. Southbound, instead of going for a tried and tested horror staple story, goes for more of an ethereal and existential nightmare and it really pays off nicely.
The film starts out with The Way Out, following two bloodied and frazzled men speeding down the highway in a pickup truck. The creep factor accelerates when you see looming presences hanging in mid air in the desert landscape. Once this story has run its course, we turn to the next story Sirens, which follows a girl band called The White Tight, who are at each other’s throats as they head to their next gig. A tire blowout forces them to seek help from the first car that comes their way. Probably not the best choice – as it is a car driven by some very unsettling characters.
The end of Sirens blends right into the next story, The Accident, and a new character, Lucas. Through circumstances stemming from before the inclusion of his character, he is forced to try and save one of the previous characters, being talked through it by a 911 operator. Or is it. The creep factor is incredibly high at this point and the production value is absolutely incredible.
From there we get a pretty contained story in Jailbreak, which features a character heading out to a bar in the desert, looking for his estranged sister, who has been missing for over ten years. It seems to be a very close proximity to the saying “not all those who wander are lost”. The finale of the film kind of bookends the film with the origin of the two characters we see at the end. What led them to have such an evil lingering behind them so menacingly? You won’t even be able to guess. It’s pretty genius.
I think it’s easy for you to decipher that I absolutely dug this movie. Atmospherically the film is creepy from the get go and it gets more and more deeper into this as the story progresses. Sirens experiences a bit of lag during the story and Jailbreak is a mostly unnecessary storyline but the terrifying experience of the beginning and ending are so satisfying that you won’t even think twice about anything else.
The thing that works best for Southbound is the connective tissue of the terrifying nature of taking road trips through completely unknown territory. As a kid going on vacations with my dad, I always felt an eerie feeling going through dusty gas stations in the middle of nowhere or seeing dilapidated hotels just off the interstate. The makers of this film preyed on this and made the worst fears come to life in a ll the best ways and to make it all that much better, it all plays to a synth soundtrack. That’s an easy way to get a thumbs up from me.
It’s funny that this otherworldly style of horror film making really reminded me of another ethereal style horror film released in 2005 called Reeker, that even spawned a sequel as well. Unlike Southbound, Reeker is a more straight forward story and deals with a central villain monster, The Reeker. Southbound doesn’t have any direct antagonist, maybe except the character’s own choices. That itself may be the scariest thing about it, they set up their own demise.
After the last six months or so of horror movies I feel really lucky to have not just one great horror film (The Witch) but two extremely recommendable stories sure to get a rise out of audiences. While I still love that we can get great anthology style horror films, seeing an interconnected myriad of stories to form one central story like Southbound just makes me salivate with genre contentment. I really hope all the real horror buffs go out and catch this one on the big screen, as this was how it was meant to be seen. I give Southbound a four out of five.