There is an long standing axiom that states “too may cooks spoil the broth” and in most cases that is true. In anthology films like Southbound, however, this does not apply. This five tale offering rocks from the very first vignette to its thread tying finale. Starring actors who will be familiar to some (and not to others) each performer has splendid bona fides and brings much to the film.
Anthology movies have become popular over the last few years with the V/H/S trilogy making an impact on the horror community and the two ABCs of Death (I and II) providing another version of the same theme. (Although V/H/S is more in the vein of “found footage” and “Death” is just bloody good fun and does not share the format of the former film franchise.)
The directors for Southbound are:
- Roxanne Benjamin (V/H/S, V/H/S 2, V/H/S Viral)
- David Bruckner (V/H/S, The Signal)
- Patrick Horvath (The Pact II, The Entrance)
- Radio Silence (V/H/S, The Birthday Party)
(Sidenote: Radio Silence is a conglomeration of several directors under the “name” the list includes: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Justin Martinez, Tyler Gillett, Chad Villella. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin also worked on the script.)
While V/H/S is the main common denominator of this film, the format of Southbound leaves the found footage aspect at home and concentrates on the five stories and how they interact with each other. It was a wise choice as found footage has been literally done to death.
The film is set in the American desert of the southwest . Two men, both of whom have bloodied faces and appear to be near exhaustion are driving on a two lane blacktop. Something is hovering out in the desert. Black, long and decidedly creepy looking. The two stop to clean up at a roadside gas station/diner/motel and find that leaving is a bit difficult.
At the motel three young women in a band leave for their next gig. Hungover and lost, their van breaks down in the middle of nowhere. A smiling couple stop by to offer the trio a lift. The desperate women accept and thus begins their odd tale of weirdness and mayhem.
A man is driving down the same stretch of desert road later that night. Proving that one should not text or talk on a cell phone whilst driving he strikes a young woman with his car. Injuring her badly, he calls 911. With the GPS not working on his phone the man is directed to the nearest town. His long bloody night is just beginning.
In a small town a woman is trying to get served in a bar. As the bartender insists that she close the door first, a man armed with a shotgun bursts in. He is looking for his sister. She has been missing for 13 years. After a couple of shocking moments in the bar the man is taken to a diner and a tattoo parlor.
A mother, father and daughter are in the diner, they finish and go home. Once there three masked men invade their home.
Each segment ties to the the previous one and all are deliciously weird, creepy and downright scary in places. There also appear to be a few homages mixed in with the proceedings. In the bar, it sounds like the creatures scream from John Carpenter’s The Thing has been used. Keeping with the Carpenter theme, the use of one bass note as soundtrack has been adopted for certain scenes.
The cast includes veteran character actors like Maria Olsen (with 159 credits under her belt) working along side the directors (and writers) who helmed and scribed the film. For the record the “crew” that acted in the film included: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin playing Jack, Roxanne Benjamin as Claire and Susan Burke was cast as Betty.
Southbound is fast, clever and quirky. The masks worn in the family segment were of actors; an odd looking Nicholas Cage, Clark Gable and a cartoonish Ronald Reagan. Clever and quirky.
The practical effects were brilliant. The injuries to Jack and later Lucas’ victim were beyond impressive and intermixed with the CG effects flawlessly.
The mark of any good film is that after watching it one immediately wants to watch the whole thing all over again. This multi-helmed (and written) gem falls squarely into that category of wanting the weirdness to continue.
Southbound is Indie Horror at its best. A full five stars for originality and it is a film that leaves the viewer asking for “more please.” It is available on Amazon Prime at the moment. Pop a bowl of popcorn, settle in and watch this one. If you loved V/H/S or ABCs you will love this one.