Just when the anthology format was beginning to feel stale and uninventive, Southbound gives the genre a much needed pulse with a handful of masterfully blended tales of terror. It pours on the atmosphere with horror that stretches its long fingers across the genre—from the minds of Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, and Radio Silence, Southbound officially sets the bar for films of ilk from here on out. On a desolate stretch of desert highway, weary travelers—two men on therun from their past, a band on their way to the next gig, a man struggling to get home, a brother in search of his long-lost sister and a family on vacation—are forced to confront their worst fears and darkest secrets.
There’s something really special about Southbound and it’s in the way the stories are told. Unlike a lot of anthologies, each film in Southbound is seamlessly blended into each other, making it feel cohesive in a way that’s rarely executed in this format. And that’s what I loved about the film, too, is that it’s a constant shit storm of awesome horror—there’s no down time between stories. Instead, it just relentlessly throws you into a new nightmare before you can catch your breath.
Each story is unique in its own way, only tied to the similar theme of the horror that comes from a highway in the desert. And they hit all the right notes along the way—there’s a supernatural tale with otherworldly monsters, a home invasion slasher thrown in there, a mystifying Twilight Zone-esque thriller and a nightmarish cult all go to work. But even better, there is no gimmick or bullshit excuse that brings the anthology full circle and I fucking love that. When all is said and done, Southbound comes together to create a 90-minute monster, a cohesive beast that just works.
But if there’s one downfall to Southbound, it’s that it leaves too many threads left hanging by the time the film is over. Every story is so under explained, bringing up a ton of questions with absolutely no answers. I can see the power in telling the film this way (it heightens the mystery of it all), but man is it frustrating when you’re left to piece so many different storylines together—it really flatlined a lot of what was so brilliantly built up. Other than that, though, Southbound is the real deal, a wicked take on anthologies that will (hopefully) change the landscape for the format that continues to tell short-form horror in exciting new ways.