FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 8, 2019

SHOCKtober Day 8: SOUTHBOUND (2015)




As I mentioned way back on SHOCKtober Day 2, I've mentioned a billion times (well, a billion and one now, I suppose) that I love anthology films. It's true! It's also true that the vast majority of the newer ones, such as XX and V/H/S and its sequel, have left me cold. There's usually one segment or actor within that makes me think "Hmm, that part was okay," I haven't fallen in love with any of them, not even to the point where I'd recommend them. It's a bummer! Especially considering how terrible my taste is.

Hope springs eternal, though, and hope springs hard enough that I decided to give Southbound a shot even though it's from the makers of XX and V/H/S. I've seen it bandied about in numerous lists of "you gotta see this"es, so here we are. Of course, the folks making those lists also recommend, you know, V/H/S, so here we are again. It's like a big möbius strip. Hey! That reminds me!

Southbound. Five stories, intertwining and overlapping and looping just like a big möbius strip. A character from one segment might interact directly with a character from the following segment, or maybe they'll just pass one another by. It's a terrific approach to the usual portmanteau conceit of the anthology film, and the execution is the best part of this one.

As is typical in the subgenre, the quality of the stories themselves varies. Most are fine. One is a bit more. They all concern characters who in themselves in a type of Purgatory, or maybe it's Hell. Either way, it's out in the middle of the desert somewhere. Each story deals with the idea of guilt and secrets and regret, or at least that's what we're supposed to gather. Thematically, it simply doesn't work. There's no consistency to the punishments meted or escaped, nor do they tie into any one person's crimes specifically. Each becomes a sort of "Oh shit, now it's getting surreal" exercise that doesn't provide any catharsis or sense of karmic justice.

For example, one segment concerns a girl band who ends up stranded on a long desert highway with a flat tire. The trio accepts the offer of a ride and a place to spend the night from a weirdo, anachronistic couple who seems to have arrived straight from the 1950s. We learn that one of the band members, Sadie, did something to cause their fourth member to leave. Afterwards, she ended up dead somehow.

Then it turns out the that the weirdo couple and their friends are cultists of a sort. Two of the girls end up changed by a ceremony, but Sadie runs away. She gets hit by a car. Bada boom! Karmic retribution, I guess? For the death of that other band member?

We don't get the straight-up EC Comics-style justice as embodied by the stories in Creepshow, nor do we get the symbolic you're trapped, now pay for your sins-style justice of Silent Hill 2. (The game, I mean, not the movie. Oh dear lord no...not the movie.) No one is forced to reckon with anything, not really, although that's what the entire affair purports to be about.

Even though the individual segments ultimately didn't wow me, as a package it's worth checking out. The clever design–and it really is clever–and some good special effects make the whole more than the sum of its parts.

4 comments:

L. Rob Hubb said...

Pretty. Empty.

Yah - all of these recent anthology films end up in those two words. These are more like a way to market a short film compilation, to be blunt. The only recent film that succeeds, IMO, is TRICK OR TREAT.

Anthology films - they're harder than they look, kids...

CashBailey said...

Most recent horror anthologies have been half-baked at best. I had high hopes for TALES OF HALLOWEEN but felt that the scripts were weak.

I hear the new CREEPSHOW series on Shudder is supposed to be good, and that the Jordan Peele TWILIGHT ZONE pretty much sucked.

I'm hoping they do a third ABCs OF DEATH, since the second one was vastly better than the first.

L. Rob Hubb said...

The CW just broadcast TWO SENTENCE HORROR STORIES in late summer, but that was over as soon as it started - it looked interesting, but hardly anyone saw it.

CHANNEL ZERO sort of qualifies as seasonal anthology - that's the high water mark for television horror to date.

Stacie Ponder said...

I keep meaning to check out Channel Zero but I never seem to get around to it. The new Creepshow is...okay. Can't hold a candle to the film, of course, but even so I don't see why it's getting so much praise! Of course I feel that way about 90% of reactions to new horror. I mean, Halloween H40 was trash and everyone lost their minds over it.