Horror fans should not let this low budget gem slip past their radar. Written, directed and/or produced by a lot of the folks responsible for the cult hit, V/H/S, Southbound is another anthology film (though a lot better), with five interlocking stories which share the time-honored theme of retribution.
Unlike Tales from the Crypt's stories of karmic comeuppance, Southbound chooses a darkly ambiguous tone over narrative clarity. These sequences don’t even provide all the story details necessary for the viewer to be privy to everything going on. In fact, some stories don’t bother finishing the tale with a concrete resolution before segueing into the next one. But that constant ambiguity (along with the bleak desert setting) is also what renders the whole thing extraordinarily eerie. We’re sucked into the actions of these characters and what makes them tick, but only given bare hints of their past sins before the desert delivers its punishment.
|New Rule: No more ketchup packets in the car.|
As with most anthology films, some stories are stronger than others. The wraparound segments, “The Way Out” & “The Way In,” tie things together nicely, and the opener goes a long way in establishing this film isn’t just another Creepshow; we’re in for a bizarre ride into the surreal. By far, the best segment is the middle one, “The Accident,” which has a distracted motorist trying to save a woman he struck with his car, with the aid of some increasingly malevolent 911 operators. This is also the most gruesomely violent segment, and even jaded gorehounds may find themselves cringing during some scenes. The other two tales, “Siren” and “Jailbreak,” aren’t quite as effective because they tread more familiar ground, but the entire film benefits from intriguing (if ambiguous) characters, great performances and an intelligent script which understands that extraneous exposition doesn’t really matter if we’re suitably freaked out.
In other words, if you like your horror laid out in layman's terms, with everything explained, you’ll probably hate it. Southbound has bigger ambitions, aiming for those looking for something unique and slightly left of the mainstream. Though its limited budget is sometimes obvious, this is far more accomplished, creative and artistic than a lot of other films passing themselves off as horror these days.
PURR...LIKE A SURREAL SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.
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