Cast: Mather Zickel, Kate Beahan, Dana Gould
Spoilers Within: No
Originally posted 12th July 2016 on Letterboxd.
Film 1 – #80 in ‘The Hard Drive Randomiser’
The latest anthology horror to hit VOD, Southbound is a frustrating task in patience and tolerance. Each of the five stories here are tonally separate: we have a duo on the run from their past; a lone man making his way home; a band whose van breaks down, and a man searching for his sister, all on one long stretch of a desert highway. As with most poorly conceived anthology shorts, the joining wraparound here is so threadbare that everything falls apart, but even more frustratingly, it’s not until the very end – where the story connects in the most obvious way possible – that you realise all of it has been for nought.
Abandoning all logic and connectivity, the short stories have absolutely no discernible through-line, making them more a series of pointless vignettes like The ABCs of Death, rather than V/H/S. This isn’t to say either of those are perfect examples of the genre (though V/H/S/2 does make a damn good case for it), but at the very least they had an understanding of what makes work; separate anthologies with no theme except by letter, or a common story connector. Southbound aims for both and misses.
Radio Silence and co. have instead delivered a string of ideas that could potentially work alone to varying degrees of success – especially Mather Zickel’s lone driver, but excluding the trite, clichéd cult and home invasion segments – but the lack of innovation in connecting the story is so mind-numbingly lazy that it becomes a waste of time by the final act. The aforesaid best segment (‘The Accident’, which begins with the most seamless transition in the entire film) is followed by a tenuously connected phone call, with no explanation as to why this person is calling Zickel’s stopgap-surgeon. It’s this negligence in plot that botches the film, and its something that could have been easily fixed had the multiple directors and writers cared about their audience.
In the end, it’s simply a series of unlikeable people doing questionable things to further their stories, with absolutely no regard for coherence or perceptible themes. If you squint hard enough you may notice repeated ideas but that would take a level of interest that not even the filmmakers were concerned with.