Made by filmmakers who worked together on V/H/S, Southbound doesn’t always work, but at least its stories have a thematic tie to one another and a vision, unlike so many modern horror anthologies.
Radio Silence — Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Chad Villella– who made Ready or Not, V/H/S, and Devil’s Due directed the first segment, in which two men are pursued by demons down a highway as well as the demons of their past failures. “The Way Out” starts the film on a high note.
“Siren” continues the strangeness, as the three members of The White Tights wreck their van and are accosted by both hospitality and odd behavior in the homes they find in the aftermath. This segment effectively uses comic actors like Susan Burke and Dana Gould while the direction by Roxanne Benjamin (who wrote this with Burke) keeps the story moving.
“The Accident,” directed by David Bruckner, is one dark tale, in which a man is brought to a facility where he’s instructed in how to operate on Sadie, the character from the last story, who he hits with his car. He cannot save her and their instructions lead to her death; he’s haunted by their voices on the phone. The creatures from “The Way Out” keep showing up and haunting the characters.
One of the voices on the phone is Sandy, who leads us to a bar called The Trap and the story called “Jailbreak,” which is directed by Patrick Horvath. Beyond David Yow from the band The Jesus Lizard, this one is filled with demonic violence. However, it stumbles compared to the other segments.
“The Way In” is also by Radio Silence and shows us where the two main characters came from in the first story but not in any way that you’d expect. This one flips the narrative, showing us that perhaps everyone in this story is trapped in the same purgatory and on the way to hell, as well as featuring Larry Fessenden as the DJ whose voice intones that these people might just be making the same mistakes for eternity.
It’s no accident that Carnival of Souls — well, maybe the public domain status has a little to do with it — is playing at the beginning of this movie.
I was really opposed to this movie the first time I saw it, but after a few years — and the quick erosion in quality of horror anthologies — I’ve come around to liking it a lot more than I did the first time I saw it. Perhaps I’m the one trapped on the highway to hell, watching this again and again until I absolutely adore it?