After the two majorly hyped anthology films that saw out the end of last year got everyone talking about the sub-genre again it was a major surprise that Southbound stayed under the radar until just before it’s release. It appeared seemly out of nowhere with a brilliant trailer, and then delivered an even bigger surprise, it lived up to the trailer.
A collection of five tales involving travelers on a lonely stretch of desert road, Southbound does connect it’s episodes, even if somewhat loosely making it feel more cohesive than most of it’s higher profile brethren such as Tales of Halloween or the V/H/S franchise with which it shares much of it’s behind the camera personnel.
The film starts with “The Way Out” with two bloodied men speeding down the road trying to escape from strange beings hovering in the sky but all roads seem to lead to the same gas, food and lodging. We don’t know why they’re running or what the creatures are but we do get some wicked shocks and effective gore on the way to a darkly poetic ending. This segues into “Sirens” a tale of a trio of female musicians who are rescued after a roadside breakdown by an odd couple who live in an even odder retro house. One of the three is a vegetarian and abstains from the mystery meat dinner which leaves her the only one not sick and needing “medicine” with odd side effects.
This in turn leads into “The Accident” in which a texting driver hits a young woman. The voice of the emergency dispatcher guides him to a town that looks like the scene of a disaster, and into more and more extreme measures to save his victim’s life. This one is especially tense and fairly graphic as things spiral more and more out of control. This leads us to “Jailbreak” a tale of robbery, a hunt for a sister missing for an ominous thirteen years, and mayhem. This one suffers from a slightly incoherent plot but still holds interest. Finally we’re delivered “The Way In” in which a brutal home invasion turns out very badly for the killers, who find a lot more than they were looking for. As you may guess from the title, it leads us back to the beginning, it’s last scenes being the movie’s first.
I’ve purposely left the connections between the segments out in order not to give out spoilers, but they range from very casual to very solid and give the film a sense of continuity and cohesion that a few words from a DJ can’t. I also like that there’s only a handful of stories, unlike ABCs of Death or Tales of Halloween. This lets the stories develop and build some interest, something missing from the marathon films.
Apart from “The Accident” this isn’t a particularly bloody film by genre standards though it isn’t afraid to get bloody when it’s called for. And the effects, both bloody and otherwise are excellent for a film that was obviously done on a low budget. Indeed, the film is very well done and very polished and could easily have gotten more than the token theatrical play it’s revived. The cast and crew deserve to feel proud of this one.
It’s early in the year, but I’m fairly sure this will be on my best of the year list, it is that good.