Sunday, March 13, 2016
Southbound is an indie anthology horror film that connects each story with at least one element (like a character or setting) as well as some skeletal creatures and the radio host. Each segment is suspenseful and engaging on its own as well as how it connects to other parts of the film.
* The Way Out
Mitch and Jack are on the run from mysterious creatures for an unknown reason. They stop at a diner for gas and food, but keep returning to the same diner when they try to leave. The small town inhabitants of the diner don't seem to be surprised that they keep returning, even teasing the men when they return, which makes the diner even more ominous despite its boring and rundown appearance. The skeletal alien-like creatures are creepy from far away and downright frightening up close. The damage they inflict is shocking, but there's no explanation as to why they are after the men or where they came from. The ending is a bit underwhelming, but torturous for the characters in a more subtle way.
A band's van breaks down in the middle of a deserted highway. An older, pleasant looking couple offers them a ride to their house and a tire and they unfortunately accept. This segment is my favorite because it taps in to how creepy perfect nuclear families from the 50's are. On the surface, the couple and their lumbering twin sons are perfectly pleasant and attentive to their guests needs. The only person not under the thrall of their hosts is Sadie, who is already on the outs with her group. Her perspective wedges her apart from the rest of the band even further and it's clear that she's the only person who even suspects something is amiss. The creepiest scene is when the family serves them the most disgusting and rancid looking meat as if it's normal while Sadie refuses to eat. Her bandmates can't scarf it down fast enough, throw up black sludge, then start acting strangely. The whole thing is surreal madness and descends even further after dinner is over with matching outfits, cult weirdness, and a bear trap.
* The Accident
Lucas is too busy looking at pictures of his wife on his phone to notice the road and hits Sadie (from Siren) at full speed. She's in bad shape: leg broken, bleeding profusely, and obvious internal injuries. He frantically calls 911 and the supposed dispatcher and EMT lead him to an abandoned hospital where they coach him through operating on her. This is the most tense of the segments because this woman's life lies in the balance while these disembodied voices alternately instruct. mock, and confuse him. The most disturbing part is when they ask him to cut Sadie open and compress her lung with his hand to somehow save her. While this a disturbing segment, I find it odd that Sadie's fate (whether she lives or dies) is implied to be deserved as it is the same as her friend Alex who died in a car crash and her friends said as much in the last segment. This part seemed wrong to me since I don't agree that it was strictly her fault (and it also smacks of shaming her for being sexual) and Lucas is rewarded with a new car, new clothes, and freedom.
* The Jailbreak
This segment features Danny, a guy who has been looking for his sister Jessie for a while. The bar he busts into isn't the conventional sort as the bar customers aren't strictly human. He finds his sister and leaves with her, despite her not wanting to leave. This segment is entertaining because of the demon barfight, the revelations Jessie reveals, and her surprising reaction to her brother's concern. She likes where she is and doesn't care about the horrible things she's done in her past. It shows that not everyone suffers in horrible places and not all bonds of blood are solid or mean anything. Even with the supernatural aspects, human evil is the most chilling element. Not the best segment, but fun to watch.
* The Way In
This segment starts out as a home invasion film and then it becomes clear that Mitch and Jack attack this family as revenge for a horrific act committed against Mitch's daughter Katherine. Some surprises break the same old tropes and it explains why the two look like they do at the start of the film and what they argued about. The film starts where it began, implying that the characters are doomed to repeat their deaths or traumas until they learn to make the right decisions. It continues the tradition of the morality plays of older anthology films like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt in a more nuanced and unexpected way.
Southbound is a solid addition to the horror anthology genre. While there are some flaws here and there, it's a chilling journey across a dusty, deserted highway that could be pretty much anywhere in the US. Each segment has a different focus and a slightly different horror sub-genre, but the connecting points make the whole work cohesive.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins