“Southbound” began its theatrical run in Houston yesterday at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park.
There have been a seemingly overflowing amount of horror anthologies in recent years in an effort to add new life to a concept forgotten by this generation. Even with films like “Trick ‘r Treat,” “The ABCs of Death,” and “V/H/S,” the success doesn’t feel quite the same as when similar films like “Creepshow” and “Tales From the Crypt” were at their peak. “Southbound” attempts to connect its stories in a way that hasn’t been done before and it mostly succeeds.
“Southbound” is five stories stretched across an hour and a half and one continuous stretch of highway that tends to only go in the south direction. “The Way Out” has two men covered in someone else’s blood fleeing the events that transpired the night before. “Siren” is the story of a female rock band getting stranded in the desert and getting picked up by a strange couple. In “The Accident,” Lucas is to blame for the unrelenting event that unfolds. He does everything he can to save the victim, but is the person he’s talking to over the phone really on his side? “Jailbreak” sees Danny continuing his thirteen year search for his sister Jesse. After finding her in the bowels of hell, their reunion is bittersweet when Jesse refuses to leave. “The Way In” interrupts an innocent family vacation with a violent home invasion.
The musical score of “Southbound” is composed by The Gifted and is performed on analog synths. The keyboard-heavy music gives the film a John Carpenter kind of atmosphere as soon as the opening credits appear, so you already have this mindset that you’re right back in the early 1980s watching a horror film that is on the same level as the classics. Strange, murderous creatures stalk Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin) in “The Way Out.” They’re collectors of some kind and look like floating skeletal torsos with wings. They appear in every story in some capacity. Olpin is entertaining as Jack solely because it seems like he was hired just to string an endless amount of profanities together in a short period of time.
The stories connect in various ways whether it’s panning to a room in the same hotel as the previous story, directly throwing a character into the next story head on, seeing who speaks on the other end of the telephone, or witnessing something in a public place, “Southbound” moves in a constant circle. That is perhaps the film’s main flaw; there isn’t much of a resolution for any of the stories. However, everything seamlessly intersects and the never ending loop the film finds itself in is something ripped straight out of the concept of one of the circles of hell.
Most of the makeup and special effects seem practical other than the collectors and one particular scene of gore. The film also utilized practical locations in order to feel more authentic and more grounded. “The Accident” is the bloodiest of the five stories and is arguably the most satisfying. Mather Zickel is fantastic as Lucas. His portrayal of sheer and utter panic and hopelessness is impeccable. It’s a toss-up between “Jailbreak” and “Siren” being the film’s weak points. “Siren” overflows into “The Accident,” so it feels a bit more mandatory. Meanwhile “Jailbreak” has an interesting premise and even sees Matt Peters from “Orange is the New Black” in a supporting role, but has a lackluster conclusion. “The Way In” is basically a love letter to “The Strangers.”
Larry Fessenden is also the voice of the radio DJ that is on in the car in nearly every story. His narration will put you on edge, but there is what sounds like a reference to Lord Humungus and “The Road Warrior” in one of the stories. There are numerous connections between “The Way In” and “The Way Out.” The details hidden within every scene of both stories bridge everything together in impressive ways.
“Southbound” is purely for the horror fans out there who have been aching for a new anthology to sink their teeth into. What’s unique about this collection is that everything is related in some way and it’s truly extraordinary how everything comes together. “Southbound” is bloody imaginative and horrifically linked to jaw mutilating and bone crushing results.