When V/H/S hit the horror world a few years back it was a breath of … well not fresh, but grimy, uncomfortable breath of air. It was raw and visceral and (being a fan of the horror anthology) I felt much-needed. Prior to its release it had been years since a decent anthology hit us ( Trick R’ Treat being the last) and I was jonesing hard. V/H/S offered up the best young talent the horror world had and delivered the goods. It was a wonder why this crew never reunite with a follow-up!?! With the success of last years Tales of Halloween and A Christmas Horror Story proves that genre fans love them some horror anthologies and best to keep them coming! The film makers behind took note of this insatiable appetite for byte size horror and decided to deliver the king size of bite size horror… Not really sure what I meant there but just know that Southbound is one hell of a wild ride and now I have a hankering for a king size Twix.
A beaten up old pick up truck barrels down a dusty desert highway. The foreboding and ominous voice of a DJ (voiced by Larry Fessenden) crackles over the radio, while the blood splattered driver and passenger try hard to ignore the floating figures in the desert that seem to be following the car. If this description doesn’t hook you in instantly I don’t know what will! The beauty of this vague and eerie opening is it sets the tone beautifully for the entire film. We are not just treated to 4 short films loosely connected by a weak wrap around segment. Southbound is a true horror experience. Instead of a just watching a movie, we are spending 24 hours in a small desert town that is anything but a small desert town.
The previously mentioned opening, titled The Way In (directed by Radio Silence), is what could be considered a wrap around segment, but think of it as more of bookends. The pick-up truck occupants are Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin who happens to be part of Radio Silence) and Mitch (Chad Villella) haggard and covered in dried blood. Clearly just finishing up some sort of wrong doing (more on that later) and are desperate to get the hell out of dodge. Unfortunately, after a quick stop for gas and to wash up the duo seem caught in a time loop and no matter which route they take, they end up back at the same gas station. Any good horror anthology knows that the opening has to tie in with the ending and what lead our duo to this fate I won’t spoil, but it’s Radio Silence so we know it’s something horrific and ultra graphic. Doing the lords work those boys are!
Morning eventually comes and thus starts the next segment ‘Siren’ directed by Roxanne Benjamin. 3 hungover bandmates, Ava (Hannah Marks), Kim (Nathalie Love) and Sadie (Fabianne Therese) are heading to their next gig (because the middle of the desert is a hot spot for chick punk rock bands) when their van breaks down. Hungover and in the middle of no where, the gals hitch a ride from a seemingly nice couple who appear to be right out of the 50’s. There’s some off about our good nature couple, who appear a little too eager to get the gals back to their pad. The acting in this one is fantastic, Fabianne Therese has always been top-notch, but really drives home the fear and panic. Benjamin proves she knows how to handle her actors and builds the tension and impeding doom like an old pro. Can’t wait to see what else she’s got up her sleeve.
As Sadie flees the house of horrors she entered in ‘Siren’ she becomes the worse case scenario for texting and driving in the next segment titled . Lucas (Mather Zickle) is the absent-minded driver who is too invested into the conversation with his wife on his cell phone (in spectacular case of irresponsibility, he is talking on his cell phone AND texting while driving. The man is walking anti-texting while driving PSA.). After turning Sadie into a human bug platter, Mitch is hot tailing it to the nearest hospital after calling 911 and being informed that no ambulances are available. Soon Mitch finds himself in an abandoned hospital with the voice on the other end asking him to perform a make shift operation. This is the best segment of the lot. Brutally graphic and tense, Bruckner knows how to walk right to the edge of ‘Holy Shit’ & ‘What the Fuck’, but never getting silly or over the top. If that makes any sense. This segment is goddamned cringe inducing and had me yelling at the screen.
What sucks about “Jailbreak” the next segment directed by Patrick Horvath (the only film maker not from VHS) is it had to follow the best. And it’s safe to say it’s the weakest of the bunch. Although it’s the only segment that gives us any insight to what the hell is going on in this town. What appears to be a random stick up at the local bar, quickly reveals itself to be a brother looking for his long-lost sister. The acting is solid and as mentioned earlier this is the closest to insight we get about the town and it’s goings on, but it felt lackluster and tacked on. Maybe if it wasn’t a short but a little longer it could have stretched its legs a bit. Ah well, maybe a sequel will happen and they got something build on.
The last is titled ‘The Way In’ (also directed by Radio Silence) which let’s us know immediately that it ties in with the opening. An “Ozzie and Harrette” type family on a last family vacation before their only daughter goes away to college. Shortly after arriving to their desert condo (cause who the hell doesn’t want to vacation in dry, oppressive desert heat??), some unexpected guests arrive and clearly aren’t here for the scenery. As this segment ties into the first one I can’t say much without ruining it all, but it does explain enough to satisfy, without getting to deep into it. Although the CGI used towards the end was kinda iffy, I still dug the hell out where this segment went and how it all works together.
Southbound is the first great horror flick of 2016 and I can’t wait for a sequel. This crew of film makers appear to be kindred spirits and really know how to make an anthology that all the segments work together and are not just a handful of random shorts mashed together. A sort of rarity in the genre anthology. Here’s to hoping that many sequels will follow!