August 11, 2016 Southbound (Movie Review)
As humans, we often question our mortality. Many among us have ideas about what happens after death, from Heaven to Hell and in between. Latest Horror release Southbound weaves five stories together in an Anthology themed around the concept of death and punishment. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 16th, 2015, and thereafter released worldwide on February 5th, 2016, as well as on DVD via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on May 17th.
The first story is titled “The Way Out,” written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin; founding member of Punk band Link 80 (Happy Halloween 2007, V/H/S 2012) and directed by Radio Silence who are a filmmaking group from Los Angeles comprising members of Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, and Chad Villella. Bettinelli-Olpin stars as Jack, and Chad Villella plays Mitch, who are covered in blood, and on the run driving down a highway. In the distance, strange floating creatures follow them. Mitch is remorseful for their prior actions, and thinks about his daughter Katherine. Jack reassures Mitch they did it for Katherine, and they drive into a small town with a truck stop to refuel. They leave town and drive down the road, only to end up back at the truck stop. The creatures are closing in on them, Jack is desperate to escape, but is killed by the creatures. Conversely, Mitch accepts his fate and follows the creatures to a motel room.
The second twisted tale is “Siren,” written by Roxanne Benjamin (writing debut) and Susan Burke (Smashed 2012, Margo Rourke and the Boys Club 2012), and directed by Benjamin. In an adjacent motel room are Sadie (Fabianne Therese: John Dies at the End 2013, Starry Eyes 2014), Ava (Hannah Marks: Dirk Gently 2016, The Real O’Neals 2016), and Kim (Nathalie Love: Up the River 2015, Elvis & Nixon 2016); members of band The White Tights. After they leave the motel, their van gets a flat tire and they pull over to fix it in the middle of nowhere. An elderly couple (Susan Burke and Davey Johnson: Santiago TV series, Margo Rourke and the Boys Club 2012) passes and takes them to their nearby house. They are given a room for the night and invited to share dinner with the couple’s weird family, which consists of badly burnt meatloaf. They all eat it except for Sadie who is a vegetarian. This turns out to be her saving grace as shortly after the meal, Ava and Kim fall into a fugue. As the night progresses their strange behaviour escalates until Sadie must escape her friends and a cult trying to kill her. Sadie runs onto the road to flag down help, all the while watched by the floating creatures.
Written and directed by David Bruckner (Talk Show 2011, V/H/S 2012), comes the third instalment, “The Accident.” Lucas (Mather Zickel: Fake 2011, Coming & Going 2011) speaks to his wife Claire while driving, and as a consequence hits Sadie. While she lies there critically injured, he calls 911 but is unable to give their location. An EMT instructs him to take her to a nearby hospital. When they arrive they find it abandoned and Lucas is instructed by the same voice on the phone on how to perform surgery on Sadie to save her. Instead of fixing her, it makes her worse. He leaves with clean clothes and another car, which the floating creatures observe from a distance.
The fourth story, “Jailbreak,” written by Patrick Horvath (Die-ner (Get It?) 2009, The Pact II 2014) and directed by Horvath and Dallas Hallam (Entrance 2012, The Pact II 2014), shows a woman named Sandy (Maria Olsen: Paranormal Activity 3, The Lords of Salem). She is the EMT who spoke to Lucas from a phone booth in the previous segment. She hangs up and walks into a bar named The Trap. In the bar’s carpark, Danny (David Yow: Big Money Rustlas 2010, Just Go With It TV series) exits his car. When Sandy enters, barman Al (Matt Peters: Orange is the New Black TV series, Rush Hour TV series) is angry at Sandy for leaving the door open. They argue as their acquaintance Warren (Tyler Tuione: In the Gray 2012, Rake TV series) comes into the bar. Danny charges in with a gun asking where his sister is. Despite Warren and the others turning into demons, Danny is not deterred from his mission. He takes Al hostage and Al takes him to his sister Jesse’s location. He rescues Jesse (Tipper Newton: The ABCs of Death 2012, Adventure Time TV series) and they drive off through the desert. Jesse ultimately betrays him and as she drives away, the floating creatures hover.
The final piece is titled “The Way In,” and ties the anthology all together. Written by Bettinelli-Olpin and directed by Radio Silence, Jem (Hassie Harrison: Hart of Dixie TV series, Dementia 2015) sees Jessie across the road before meeting her parents, Cait (Kate Beahan: Mistresses TV series, NCIS: New Orleans TV series) and Daryl (Gerald Downey:Leverage TV series, J. Edgar 2011). It is the last weekend before Jem begins college and they celebrate with a meal together. As they leave, someone watches them. Later that evening, three masked men break into the holiday home. Jen manages to hide while Daryl and Cait are held by the men. While to Cait it seems like a random attack, Daryl soon realizes he knows why they are there. He believes it might be the key to saving his family. Daryl’s horrific secret involves Mitch’s daughter Katherine. Two of the men who hold them at gunpoint, are Mitch and Jack. The men kill Daryl and Cait, and get covered in blood. When they think they have finished, Jem appears to complicate everything. At the end of this segment, the flying creatures stop observing and become an integral part of everyone’s punishment.
The special effects are outstanding, in particular those related to the floating creatures. They are stunning not only from afar, but close up. While initially the stories may seem disjointed, by the third one, the viewer should have learned of its complexity. There are multiple hints through the film in order to understand the film hidden meanings, and concrete the eternal loop. The film has a 80% approval rating overall, and after five minutes viewing, it is easy to see why.
Producers Brad Miska and Radio Silence first began work on the Anthology in 2014, and Benjamin, Bruckner, and Horvath joined later on. The story and characters are rich, deep, and complicated, with plenty of twists and turns to keep all viewers on the edge of their seats. Lots of blood and gore, and the cinematography and acting are exceptional. The musical score by The Gifted is diverse and creates an intense atmosphere for the story. Songs from Link 80 were included, along with The-Front, Ben Lovett, and others.
All the stories work well alone and aside the others, it is certainly a mind-warping, heart-pumping experience. Southbound is set to become a cult classic, a film worth watching over and over. CrypticRock.com gives Southbound 5 out of 5 stars.