A couple of men, covered in blood, are driving down an old desert highway. The passenger looks out the window and spots something demonic hovering above the plains in the distance. When the driver asks him what’s wrong, the man brushes away his friend’s concern. Whatever it is that’s after these two guys isn’t natural, but they’ve been dealing with it long enough that they’ve become inured to its presence.
See the first seven minutes below:
Following the conclusion of that opening sequence, another group of travelers attract the camera’s attention. Over the course of the next hour or so, we’ll be drifting from one character’s point of view to another, on or about the same desolate highway. Although these are some of the same people who brought us the V/H/S films, to call Southbound an anthology movie is misleading. I think it’s just protagonistically challenged.
What a time to be alive. After a decade or so of mostly terrible horror, 2015 has been the best year for the genre since the eighties. We Are Still Here paid homage to Fulci, It Follows to Carpenter, Deathgasm to Raimi and Jackson, and now Southbound seems to be influenced by everyone in between including Lovecraft and Craven. The kids raised on Video Nasties are the ones making movies now. Thanks to them, the genre is successfully making up for the late 90s and early 2000s, when all the films either looked too shitty or too slick. Southbound is the latest missionary in the revolution.
A lot of horror movies don’t make a lot of sense because they don’t have to. There are times Southbound feels like it doesn’t make sense, but it’s not to the film’s detriment. You get the feeling early on that its madness is intentional, while the jarring nature of its focus-shifts gives it the qualities of a terrible nightmare. A few seconds short of ninety minutes, the film’s brevity also feels dreamlike. Most horror films drag on a little too long while this one gets in, gets out, and leaves you wanting more.
If you’re wondering if it’s better than V/H/S, it is. This time the tone remains uniform throughout. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of short stories with only superficial connections. This is a bonafide movie and a pretty good one at that.