Anthology films are often hit or miss. Even the greatest horror anthologies aren’t without their weaker segments. It’s difficult to maintain a level of consistency, especially in anthology films that call for different writers and directors for each segment. Is Southbound an exception to those weaker segments? Not entirely, but the effort is admirable.
Southbound is an anthology horror film written and directed by far too many people to name at once. The film is made up of five different stories, each of which intertwine in some way. For the entirety of the run time, Southbound very much feels like a hellish Twilight Zone – succeeding in being both intense and mysterious. Since the film consists of five different segments, I’ll break this review down as such.
The Way Out
The Way Out was directed by film-making coupe Radio Silence (V/H/S, Devil’s Due) from a script by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (co-creator of Radio Silence who also stars in this segment) and serves as the opening segment of Southbound. The Way Out follows Mitch (Chad Villella, also of Radio Silence) and Jack (Bettinelli-Olpin) who are on the run from enigmatic floating creatures on a nameless desert highway. The Way Out is an interesting opening act for Southbound, drawing the viewer quickly into this mysterious universe. The first few minutes of the segment are particularly engaging – very much feeling like an episode of The Twilight Zone as the men keep ending up at the same gas station – and the back half of the segment features an especially brutal moment that should please fans of on-screen violence.
Siren was directed by Roxanne Benjamin (Producer of V/H/S 1&2) from a script by Benjamin and Susan Burke (one of the actresses in the segment). Siren follows three young women, Sadie, Ava, and Kim, who are in a band together. Their van breaks down on the same nameless highway and the girls are picked up by an odd, overly-friendly couple (Susan Burke, Davey Johnson). The girls spend the night with the odd couple and Sadie begins to realize bizarre things are occurring. Siren is mysterious, weird, and quirky in a way that is uncomfortable. It’s one of the highlights of Southbound, and by the end of the segment, you’ll certainly be invested.
The Accident was written and directed by David Bruckner (The Signal, V/H/S) and follows Lucas (Mather Zickel), who is involved in an accident on the same highway. I’m not going to give anything away about this segment so that you can enjoy the holy shit moment for yourself, but I can tell you that The Accident is brutal, mysterious, cringe-worthy (in the best possible way), and is the greatest part of Southbound.
Jailbreak was directed by Patrick Horvath and follows the character Danny (David Yow, lead vocalist of The Jesus Lizard) as he searches for his sister to bring home. While the story was interesting enough, Jailbreak feels like a moderate disappointment coming off the high of The Accident. While gore lovers will find more to quench their blood-thirst in this segment, it’s mostly forgettable in the grand scheme of Southbound.
The Way In
The Way In was directed by Radio Silence, again from a script by Bettinelli-Olpin, and it follows a daughter, Jem, who is spending a weekend with her parents at their vacation house before leaving for college. Their fun time is interrupted, however, when three masked men invade their house. This is, again, a story that I can’t speak much of without giving away spoilers – but I will say that this segment ties in with the first story in a way that impressively brings Southbound full circle.
As a whole, Southbound works incredibly well. Even the weaker segments offer something to be admired. The film is ambitious and unique in how all of the stories tie together, and the intensity is unrelenting at times. Southbound is certainly one of the stronger horror anthologies to date and is well worth checking out.