“SOUTHBOUND” (Movie Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Michael Gingold
From the people behind the V/H/S movies comes a film that should satisfy even those who don’t usually respond to anthologies, as SOUTHBOUND consists less of separate segments than chapters in the same story—all of them scary, one of them a truly harrowing experience.
SOUTHBOUND’s filmmakers take full advantage of the loneliness and isolation of the American Southwest, where the lack of cell and GPS service is a given and all kinds of horrible things can happen without anyone but the direct participants being aware of it. It’s also an area where those with troubled pasts might seek escape from the eyes of the world, and that’s how the movie starts off, with “The Way Out” by the Radio Silence collective. We join two bloodied men, Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, who also scripted), as they pull up to a middle-of-nowhere gas station for a breather in what is clearly a desperate situation. A TWILIGHT ZONE-esque twist has other plans for them, though, and announces how the film overall will bend but not break the rules of reality in the service of finely evoked dread. It also serves notice, in the appearance of some otherworldly beings, that SOUTHBOUND’s modest budget will not preclude the engagement of some excellent visual FX.
More innocent travelers next come along in Roxanne Benjamin’s “Siren,” focusing on female rock band The White Tights (played by Fabianne Therese, Nathalie Love and Hannah Marks with tight chemistry) as their van gets a flat tire in the worst possible place. From this time-honored setup for a horror story, Benjamin and co-scripter/co-star Susan Burke build creepy unease as help happens along rather quickly, but leads the gals into an even more threatening situation. The supporting players help keep the suspense mounting, as does the effectively deliberate pacing courtesy of Benjamin and editor/HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN filmmaker Jason Eisener, doing an effective 180 from the frenetic cutting of his V/H/S 2 segment “Slumber Party Alien Abduction.”
Then night falls, and David Bruckner takes us on a ride into powerfully horrifying territory with “The Accident.” Mather Zickel is excellent as Lucas, whose drive is suddenly, shockingly interrupted when he hits a young woman with his car, almost but not quite killing her. No typical genre-movie blunderer, Lucas does all the right things in attempting to get help for the battered and broken girl, finding his way to a rural hospital and following the directions of the 911 operator he reaches. Things nonetheless take increasingly sinister turns, and “The Accident” becomes a knockout blend of psychological manipulation and graphic body horror, deriving equal impact from Zickel’s growing desperation and nightmarishly realistic prosthetic FX by John and Sierra Russell.
It wouldn’t be a Southwestern anthology without a visit to a redneck bar, and that’s where shotgun-wielding Danny (David Yow) arrives, on a decade-long hunt for his missing sister in “Jailbreak,” by writer/director Patrick Horvath and co-scripter Dallas Hallam. It turns out that Jesse (Tipper Newton) isn’t necessarily seeking rescue, and what Danny learns when he finds her is enough to make him wish he’d stopped searching. This one is stronger on the graphic details than on plotting, but offers enough punch that it doesn’t take the SOUTHBOUND trip off its course.
Radio Silence returns to wrap things up with “The Way In,” as masked intruders terrorize college-bound Jem (Hassie Harrison from DEMENTIA) and her family. Jem proves to be a little more resilient than the attackers expected, but this is more than a simple tables-turning tale; there’s a supernatural surprise in store. “The Way In” brings SOUTHBOUND to an effectively chilling conclusion, and like “The Way Out,” it showcases some very well-wrought digital creations.
SOUTHBOUND overall is exceedingly well-crafted: The cinematography by various DPs is excellent, whether out on the sun-baked sand or deep in the hospital’s shadowy confines, production designer Jennifer Moller creates atmospherically varied yet thematically united settings and the chapters are further tied together by the eerie score by The Gifted. While the directors put their own spin on their individual entries, they’re all traveling the same highway, their tales united via fluid transitions and wrapped up in insinuating narration by Larry Fessenden. All these contributions help SOUTHBOUND avoid the stop-and-start discontinuity of some anthologies, and make it a trip well worth taking.