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Southbound (TIFF Review 2015)

Southbound (TIFF Review 2015)
09.17.2015by: Chris Bumbray
6 10

PLOT: Desperate travelers on a long-stretch of abandoned highway are forced to come face-to-face with their most primal fears.

REVIEW: Anthology movies – by their very nature – are almost always uneven. At their best, such as the VHS series, the talent assembled is strong enough that even if a segment comes up short, there's enough energy and flair behind the camera that weaker bits can be forgiven. In that regard SOUTHBOUND is a very conventional anthology work, in that much of it is inconsequential although even at it's worst it moves along at a decent enough pace (and with enough style) that it's always worth sitting through to get to the good bits.

 

The structure here is pretty loose, with all of the stories somewhat related to the goings-on happening on a long bit of southbound highway, with all roads leading to a town that literally may be hell on earth. The problem is that with the segments being so brief it's hard to get too involved with anything that's happening, although the bookend segments – directed by film collective Radio Silence – have a decent if obscure pay off. Two of the other stories, “Siren” (by Roxanne Benjamin) and “Jailbreak” (Patrick Howarth) have their moments, with the photography having a sharp look despite the director's using different DP's on each and excellent music by The Gifted.

The real reason SOUTHBOUND is worth watching is the centerpiece story, “Accident,” directed by THE SIGNAL's David Bruckner. The story of a motorist who runs down a woman and then tries to save her, it's a darkly humorous piece of work and a solid morality tale to boot. The acting is superb, with Mather Zickel as the overwhelmed motorist, who must incriminate himself for his own carelessness in order to save the woman he hit (Fabienne Therese – a silent but powerful turn). His desperate attempt to save her while speaking to some demonic EMT's had the Midnight Madness audience at TIFF alternately gasping, laughing and finally – applauding.

By contrast, the other segments can't help but feel a little inconsequential. The acting is a mixed-bag, ranging from excellent to amateurish, with the most difficult segment being 'Siren' which opts for a surreal tone which is next to impossible to pull off in twenty-minutes, so for her ambition alone director Roxanne Benjamin deserves credit.

As such, SOUTHBOUND is most certainly worth watching, if only for the extended sequence alone. It's a gem of a tale and could rank with the best of anthology shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. While the rest of the movie isn't up to its standard, on the whole SOUTHBOUND is still a good anthology outing and one that should find an appreciative audience on VOD.

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