Guest Author: John C. Farris
R | 89 min | Multiple Directors | (USA) | 2015
A lonely stretch of desert highway in the American Southwest, offers five stories of terror in the horror anthology Southbound.
Synopsis: On a desolate stretch of desert highway, weary travelers – two men on the run from their past, a band on their way to the next 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 a series of interwoven tales of terror and remorse on the open road.
Directed by Roxanne Benjamin (producer, V/H/S 1-3), David Bruckner (V/H/S), Patrick Horvath (Entrance) and the film collective known as Radio Silence (V/H/S), the movie stars Kate Beahan (TV’s “Mistresses,” The Wicker Man), Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (V/H/S), and Mather Zickel (TV’s “Masters of Sex,” Hail, Caesar!).
Horror anthologies. I love and respect them for what they are and what they aren’t. For me, it all started with Creepshow then Tales From The Crypt TV series came along and before I knew it, I was building a top ten list of favorites including Tales from The Darkside The Movie, Body Bags, V/H/S/, The ABC’s Of Death, Tales Of Halloween and A Christmas Horror Story. Now I’ve added Southbound to the list.In the past, when you heard the word “anthology” the term “no” or “low” budget and poor production values came to mind. Or worse. Sometimes we were subjected to stories that were not fully developed and the primary focus was shock value. If you enjoy anthologies, you know over the course of the last decade there have been some major refinements to this genre and they’re finally making a comeback.
In Southbound, we have five well-written stories, two of which serve to open and close the anthology in a neat little package. They all take place along the same stretch of desert highway, have good visuals and effects, and are very entertaining. Although some of the storylines are a little predictable, they are still enjoyable.
Southbound opens with “The Way Out” a story directed by Radio Silence. In the opening scene two blood-covered, panic-stricken men named Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin), are speeding down a lonely stretch of highway. Holding a crumpled photo of a little girl, Mitch takes his eyes off the image to glance out his window where he notices a skeletal demon-like creature hovering above the desert. (Great visual effect.) Seeking refuge, they pull over at a roadside cafe where their lives take a turn for the worse.
In the next segment, entitled “Siren” and directed by first-time director Roxanne Benjamin, three women (Fabianne Therese, Nathalie Love, Hannah Marks) in a rock band called The White Tights are forced off the highway by a flat tire. Stranded without cell or GPS reception, their luck changes when an overly-nice couple comes to their rescue. The couple takes the girls home with them where it becomes evident to the band’s singer, Sadie, that her hosts are being deceptive. Hiding a secret of her own, Sadie realizes too late who (and what) her rescuers really are.
The third segment titled “Accident” was directed by David Bruckner. It’s the goriest of the five stories, but well justified considering the story line. Lucas (Mather Zickel) a middle-aged business man driving home at night, becomes momentarily distracted and runs over a woman standing in the middle of the highway. Coming to an abrupt stop, he sees a body in his rear view mirror. Exiting the car, he stands over the woman’s mangled, twitching body then decides to call 911. Receiving instructions from both a dispatcher and from someone whom he believes is a paramedic, Lucas races the woman to a nearby town only to discover it’s abandoned. Finding a hospital, he continues listening to the instructions he’s given as he desperately tries to save the woman’s life.
The fourth segment, “Jailbreak,” was directed by Patrick Horvath. This story uses different supernatural elements but the bottom line is if you’re asked to leave a creepy, rundown bar in the middle of nowhere, don’t hesitate. Danny (David Yow) has been searching for his sister Jesse for ten years. Storming into a redneck bar armed with a shotgun, he confronts the patrons seeking answers. Despite warnings from the bartender, he agrees to take Danny to his sister. When they’re reunited, Jesse tells him she’s content and doesn’t want to leave. Not heeding her warnings to go home, Danny kidnaps Jesse then becomes trapped himself.
“The Way In” wraps up the anthology by bringing us back to the beginning. Directed by Radio Silence, the opening scene has “Purge” like visuals with men in masks invading a home and terrorizing a family of three. After the family is tied up and the wife is killed, one of the men shows a picture of a young girl to the father. Although he pleads for his life both the father and his college-bound daughter perish. However, the men get more than they bargain for when several skeletal demons emerge from the bodies and drive them from the residence.
Southbound is an anthology all about the consequences of our actions with a ‘Twilight Zone of Terror’ feel to it. After the first two stories, it becomes obvious that it is another Purgatory based film. But that’s fine by me. Since the main characters are harboring dark secrets, it seems fitting they must finally atone for their sins. And while I enjoyed Southbound as a whole, if I had to pick a favorite story, I’d go with “Accident.” The raw emotions of fear, hopelessness, and desperation are mixed with an eerie twist of redemption in the end. Overall, the segments fit together well, making this anthology one of the better ones out there—so don’t let Southbound pass you by. This one’s a keeper.
John C. Farris is an Atlanta based freelance writer and the owner and editor-in-chief for Dead, Buried, and Back! magazine. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Atlanta Writers Club and his first novel is being edited for publication. John considers himself a huge fan of the horror genre and overall geek at heart. You can follow John here: