VOD Review: Southbound.
This smart horror anthology blends five stylish shorts into a hellaciously good trip.
Southbound had been on my radar ever since I reviewed the trailer a few years back. I love anthology films, the trailer was well cut, and the organic way each short passes the baton from one creative team to the next looked great. Finding out that segments of it were directed by the film making collaboration, Radio Silence, that is attached to this weekend’s black comedy/thriller Ready or Not was icing on the cake. Having kicked the tires on this road trip horror collection, I’m only sorry I didn’t watch it sooner. Each segment is distinct and memorable, yet they all hold together as a complete film.
Two men flee down an unmarked desert highway. As they attempt to escape the literal and figurative past that is haunting them, their stories intersect with other strangers who also are having one hell of a road trip.
The thing that grabbed me about the trailer and promotional material for the film was the idea of each team dovetailing the beginning and ending of their segment with what came before and what comes next. To have four teams all pulling in the same direction, even while each individual film is vastly different in style and content, really seemed like quite a feat. I saw the first half of the other horror anthology that most of this group had worked on, V/H/S, and thought that film was disjointed and inconsistent. These teams really brought their A game to Southbound.
The structure of Southbound flows seamlessly. Not only do they deftly pass the baton between each team, each film has callbacks, Easter eggs, and common elements that deepen each other. By the time you get to the final segment (which like the first segment is directed by Radio Silence) you’ve come full circle, but the whole proceeding has taken on nuance and significance. I really wanted to go right back to the start of the film and play it through again, seeing what in the experience changes now that you’ve seen how everything is connected.
Five Flavors of Horror.
The individual segments have a nice variety to them. From home invasion a la The Strangers, to science fiction infused horror, to body horror, to road tripping teens stumbling upon crazy cultists, Southbound really runs the gamut of sub-genres. The visual quality is even throughout, no mean feat as the first segment takes place in broad daylight with CG supernatural creatures and the third segment takes place on a pitch dark night with some really excellent practical gore effects. The fourth bit, Jailbreak, is the only odd man out; it opts for a stylistically grainy/washed out look. It feels more like your typical anthology short that doesn’t quite match up to the others, which manage to all feel like parts of a whole. That being said, it was well done, just stylistically different.
Lightly Hidden is Deeply Understood.
Southbound was a delightful experience. The change in directing between them was deftly done, and allowed the film to play to many different strengths. For fans of horror, it’s pretty much a buffet of your favorites. I liked the acting in all of the segments, again even though they were all very differently handled. I can’t really find any faults; even my least favorite segment was interesting and added to the overall complexity of the piece.
The layers and layers of ideas, themes, and iconography in Southbound makes it infinitely re-watchable. This is the kind of film that spawns a cottage industry of fans filling message boards with theories and observations. The film makes smart allusions to other cult classics and notable horror films. The list of Easter eggs people have spotted fills a full page and doesn’t seem exhaustive, as I noticed one or two cool additional ones. In short, I loved Southbound and can’t wait to fire it up again soon.