Southbound (2015) Movie Review – 31 Days of Halloween
The film contains five stories set on desolate stretches of a desert highway. Two men on the run from their past, a band on its way to a gig, a man struggling to get home, a brother in search of his long-lost sister and a family on vacation are forced to confront their worst fears and darkest secrets in these interwoven tales.
Welcome to Knockout Horror and day 7 of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature. Today we are taking a look at Horror Anthology Southbound from 2015. This may seem like a bit of a strange selection as I am a fan of this movie but I definitely wouldn’t put it anywhere near the top of my personal horror favourites list. But as far as Anthology Horror goes it is one of the better ones and every October needs at least one horror anthology in my opinion.
I always start these articles by reminding you that if you are participating in an October horror movie a day marathon. Then you can check out our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween 2022 list for inspiration or even our A Tubi 31 Days of Halloween for a whole selection of movies available to watch completely free. You can also just follow along with the reviews we will be releasing every day. These reviews will be sticking to a shorter format as most of these movies are old and there isn’t a great deal I can say about them that hasn’t already been said.
Anthologies, by their very nature, are uneven affairs. Some have a couple of stories and a bunch of stinkers. Others are mediocre, or worse, the entire way through. It’s always a bit of a gamble when you fire one up. They do, however, offer upcoming directors a chance to flex their creative muscle in front of a larger audience. Big names in indie horror get a chance to experiment with shorter format stories while pushing their work out to a greater number of people. And, for horror fans, it is a chance to discover new movie makers that you might otherwise miss.
A whole bunch of well known directors have lent their talents to horror anthologies. The first V/H/S featured brilliant horror making talents like Ti West, David Bruckner and Joe Swanberg. Whereas V/H/S 2 managed to bag the likes of The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez, Raid director Gareth Evans and Macabre director Timo Tjahjanto. If you know your horror movie makers, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of industry leading talent.
Five Loosely Connected Segments
Once again, however, we can’t ignore the fact that this format often leads to seriously inconsistent content. It’s rare that anthologies stand out for having universally great segments throughout. Southbound is no exception but, to its credit, it is one of the most even around. It consists of five stories. The first of which, directed by the horror collective Radio Silence who directed 10/31/98 in V/H/S, follows a pair of friends who are on the run from a group of mysterious, floating, creatures. Before finding themselves at a run-down gas station where the shit really hits the fan.
The second story, Siren, is directed by the producer of V/H/S Roxanne Benjamin who also directed the piss poor snore fest There’s Something Wrong With The Children. It follows a group of band-mates hitting the road on the way to their next gig, only to end up with a flat tire. Accepting help from a seemingly friendly couple. The group realise that all might not be what it seems with the pair.
The third story, Accident, is directed by The Ritual director David Bruckner who also produced the average Dybbuk box horror movie No One Gets Out Alive. It follows a man being coached through operating on a young woman in an abandoned hospital after accidentally hitting her with his car. The fourth story, Jailbreak, is directed by Patrick Horvath and sees an old man attempt to free his sister from a group of people with otherworldly powers. And the final story, The Way In, follows a families struggle for survival after a brutal home invasion.
A Different Anthology Horror
You may notice that I didn’t mention a connecting story there and that’s because there isn’t one. That doesn’t mean that these segments all start and end in the same way as something like ABCs of Death. The stories are, actually, all connected and that connection exists withing the stories themselves. I don’t want to give too much away but it would be fair to say that Southbound can be taken as one continuous movie that follows a number of loosely connected character’s own personal stories.
It’s an interesting way to do things when it comes to anthology horror but does have a few drawbacks. Whereas the stories in Southbound generally tend to gel a lot better than they do in most anthology horror. And we are spared from the utter suffering that is half baked connecting stories. I am looking at you nearly every single V/H/S movie. The segments lose a lot of their individuality for their need to connect. It’s almost as if each segment was filmed by the same crew with the same cameras and the same equipment. What the movie gains in flow, it loses in charm.
More Good Than Bad
That’s not to say there aren’t decent segments here. In fact, I would say the movie weighs more towards good than bad which is seriously rare in Anthology Horror. Even when there are a number of well know directors at the helm. The initial story, Way Out, is fairly interesting and ever so slightly creepy. It has a decent laugh or two and hints at much deeper mystery that we will learn more about later. It’s well acted and pretty effective, though the CGI looked pretty naff at the time and looks even crappier now.
David Bruckner’s The Accident is genuinely great. It’s a short segment and very self contained but some of the practical effects are excellent and the concept is terrifying in itself. Acting is decent and some of the issues that are a problem with the other stories are not such a big problem with this one. We’ll get to this in a bit.
The Way In is another strong segment that gives serious The Strangers vibes but with a much deeper story at its heart. I am not saying The Strangers was good because I thought it sucked monkey scrotum but the home invasion angle is extremely effective when done well and it is done well here. I think a lot of people will appreciate how this segment ties in to the main story and it has some genuinely shocking moments.
A Few Slower Segments
Siren, on the other hand, is rather lacklustre and a bit too long. The acting is a little hokey and the uncanny valley, almost Twin Peaks like, weirdness that Benjamin seems to be going for doesn’t quite pay off. It reminded me a little of movies like Dogtooth with the over sanitised appearance of everything and the strangeness of the characters. But something about it was just missing.
I did enjoy this a lot more than anything else directed by Roxanne Benjamin, though. Body at Brighton Rock felt like a chore and I seriously disliked There’s Something Wrong With The Children. Fingers crossed for whatever she does next. We absolutely need more female voices in horror. Siren is still miles better than a lot of anthology segments.
Jailbreak is the weakest segment of all. It’s cliched, generic, derivative and borrows heavily from every other similar movie of the past 20+ years. Some of the effects are pretty decent but it just feels like yet another vampire/demon movie. Anyways, as you can see, most of the segments are decent. I have to point out, however, that a lot of people are going to have a hard time with how little this movie explains.
Horror that Never Ends
I have seen people point out that there is a lot of horror and scares in the loose ends left at the end of stories. And if you agree with this statement then more power to you. But not everyone will. Practically every story here goes completely unexplained and full of loose ends hinting that it is something of a theme of the anthology. To me, it just feels a bit lazy.
It’s such a massive problem in horror at the moment and I complain about it all the time. There’s only one segment where it’s not a huge problem and that is The Accident where the consequences of the story don’t really demand too much of an explanation. Every other story is left open ended. Naturally, this movie is called Southbound, in reference to a road. So I guess the stories are supposed to be left as endless as those very same roads.
All told, it’s not a massive hindrance to the average person’s enjoyment of the film (ie me). Southbound is a solid Anthology with more good segments than bad and one of the bad segments is still a lot better than many similar short stories. Acting is decent throughout, camera work is great, all segments share a stylistic similarity and the way they connect up is pretty well done. There is a lot to praise here and little to criticise.
Final Thoughts and Score
Southbound is one of the best horror anthology movies around. Even the weak segments are still pretty decent. Jailbreak is the worst but still has some pretty good practical effects. The stories connect up nicely with each other and the consistent stylistic similarities make for an anthology that feels far closer to a movie than a bunch of loosely themed disparate segments. There is a talented group of filmmakers at the helm here and it shows. A decent option for something a little different during the run up to Halloween.