PLOT: SOUTHBOUND presents five tales of terror, all of which occur in the middle of nowhere on a dark and spooky highway.
REVIEW: When you are out in the middle of nowhere, there is something quite sinister about all the strange folks surrounding you. And in the new anthology SOUTHBOUND, there is an abundance of spooky things that roam the highway. With five tales of terror all loosely connected, travelers face some seriously demented horrors. From a devil worshipping cult to a 911 operator with a sick sense of humor, this is a surprisingly refreshing flick that I’m happy to report doesn't involve any found footage. And while some of the effects are less than frightening - the floating black skeletons in the desert weren’t terribly threatening - this is a solid feature with a talented cast and fun stories to tell on the road.
The first of five tales in this anthology focuses on a couple of guys who have clearly done something bad. And whatever evil they have caused seems to be following them, and it is something they cannot escape. The next story tells of an all-female rock band who find themselves breaking down at the wrong place and time. As if things couldn’t get any worse for the girls, a tragedy for one of them leads to a seriously bad 911 call for a motorist on his way home. And then there is a man looking for his missing sister, who finds much more than he intended. Finally, we meet a family that is subjected to a terrifying home invasion. All of it leads back to the beginning when we find out exactly what happened to the two men from the start. All of the horror taking place on this lonely and desolate road going Southbound.
This anthology is directed by Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath and Radio Silence, and it is a impressively exciting take on the anthology film. With only five stories, the filmmakers are able to give a little more life to the characters. As well, they manage to deliver a few impressive jolts and jumps along the way. While some are more effective than others, all five stories manage to create genuine creepy moments. There is a decent amount of dread carried throughout the film, all the way to the final shock.
The best of the five stories comes from Bruckner (who co-wrote and co-directed the terrific genre flick THE SIGNAL). The Accident plays on our fears of a hospital, and all the bad things that can happen there. It is by far the most unsettling story featured, especially since the fellow trying to save the girl he accidentally hit is getting some terrible advice from a strange voice during a 911 call. While this particular story is severely far-fetched, it has a little bit of fun with the idea of trusting somebody on the other end of the telephone when you have no other choice. It is a bloody excursion into our own fears of having to trust somebody that may not have our best interest in mind. It also uses a very creepy abandoned hospital to maximum effect.
As for the remaining stories, Siren (directed by Roxanne Benjamin) appeared to be a fun homage to all the creepy cult flicks from the Seventies. The Way Out (directed by Radio Silence) offered up a couple of solid performances from the two men on the run which helped get things moving. This story continues with the The Way In (also Radio Silence), the home invasion segment and things get pretty spooky here. The weakest segment, while still not bad, is Jailbreak (directed by Patrick Horvath). This particular sequence wasn’t as satisfying as the others simply because it didn't fit in nearly as well. It also featured the least interesting leads. Even still, there have been far worse attempts to shock and scare in anthology films as of late.
SOUTHBOUND was the perfect midnight show for AFI Fest. It was fairly gory but it did not rely on that. It generates enough tension throughout and offered up a few good performances from the cast. If you are a fan of anthology films, this is one of the most satisfying ones to come out in quite awhile. So grab the keys, fill up the tank and head Southbound, this is a trip horror fans will enjoy taking.