Written by J. Weagle
No matter which road you choose, it’s all going south.
Probably the biggest positive I can give Southbound, the new horror anthology film from the producers of the VHS series, is that it always keeps you guessing. That’s a difficult thing for a modern horror film to do, in this world of been there seen that. I’m very happy to say (after a good amount of hype) that Southbound is perhaps one of the most surprising horror films to come along in years, and though it may be an anthology film, it certainly feels like a complete story.
The most important aspect for any anthology film is to make sure all the stories feel connected around a solid theme. In the past this theme has usually been a special event, or a Holiday (I’m thinking of Tales of Halloween, or Trick R Treat). What helps set Southbound apart, and makes it feel like a completely unique film is that rather than set it around a day or event, it connects via an idea. The idea of the highway, of the open road and of the vastness and unpredictability of the desert which in many ways can be seen as a representation of hell itself.
Luckily there are no weak links in the bunch, all the segments are connected and the pacing is nothing short of spectacular. There’s not a single dud or dull moment here, all the fat has been trimmed to deliver us pure horror eye candy. Another great thing is just how different each segment is from one another. For example we move from a story involving a weird satanic cult, to a home invasion movie to a bizarre story that would fit perfectly in the Twilight Zone. They go by fast, always leaving you wanting more but always delivering new twists and turns on such a regular basis that you don’t have time to stop and think until it’s all over.
Southbound doesn’t feel cheap. The writing is strong and believable and it is clear that the writers knew it would be best to leave much of the actions and motivations unsaid. Each segment does a terrific job at suggesting a world and a back story, but there’s no spoon feeding anywhere in sight. That goes along way in adding to the eeriness and leaves the viewer never quite sure what will or should happen next. The performances all around are great, and though some characters could certainly be referred to as a stereotype, they are brought to life vividly which is remarkable for the short amount of time we get to spend with each one.
All of this adds up to make one of the most fascinating horror films to come along in quite some time. For the most part the effects are good with a few exceptions here and there, and at least one chapter leans a little too heavily on them but no anthology movie is without its faults. While there will no doubt be some debate as to what exactly we are being presented and what it represents, it is extremely clear that it is a film made with an old school heart and a modern day sensibility.