The great thing about anthology films is they are like mini-prepacked film festivals. And like film festivals, you never know what you’re going to get. Fortunately, “Southbound” is among one of the best collections of horror shorts in a long time. Even more interesting is the unique path the film takes linking each of its five shorts into an overarching world.
The film opens with the short “The Way Out”, directed by the four-man team known as Radio Silence. It’s a fascinating intro with a great combination of practical and digital effects. Two men, splattered with blood from an unknown source are driving away from something. They catch glimpses of demonic, floating creatures following them. “The Way Out” ends abruptly and without explanation. While it may seem like an exercise in style over substance, the eventual payoff is worth the wait and reveals the genius in the structure of “Southbound.”
Next up is “Siren” (dir: Roxanne Benjamin) which follows three of the four members of the girl band “The White Tights” after their van breaks down in the middle of the desert. They are taken in by an incredibly creepy “helpful” couple. Of course, nothing is ever simple, and their offer to help with the van soon turns into a bizarre family dinner and overnight stay for the young women. The highlight of this segment is the steadily increasing tension and uncomfortableness as the evening becomes darker and darker.
The girls’ night abruptly climaxes with an unexpected “Accident”, the third short of this collection, directed by David Bruckner. A man, driving while distracted, hits a girl and will do anything to save her life. A 911 operator guides him to the nearest hospital, which is frighteningly abandoned. With no doctors (or anyone) to help, the operator(s) instruct him to perform a series of medical procedures which are beyond reason. His overwhelming guilt fuels his desperation, and he tries to save her mutilated body. The midpoint of the collection, “Accident” is also the most horrific and nauseating of the group. Again, the practical effects are exceptional and go a long ways towards making this short unforgetable.
“Jailbreak”, directed by Patrick Horvath, is the fourth segment, and while well-made, it is the weakest piece of this hellish puzzle. An older man enters a bar he clearly has no business being in, searching for a younger woman. The concept of this short, once revealed, is rather clever, but it’s not enough to raise this one to the level of the others.
“Southbound” concludes with a second short by Radio Silence, “The Way In”, although… “concludes” might not be the best term. Reminiscent of the 2008 film “The Strangers“, a family on vacation is harassed by masked assailants. But then….. Well, it’s best if you just see for yourself.
Watch SOUTHBOUND in theaters 2/5 & on @iTunesMovies and On Demand 2/9. Pre-order it now! radi.al/Southbound #Southbound