'Southbound' (2016)

© The Orchard

Synopsis: An anthology centered around a group of people who have deadly encounters along a Southwestern desert highway. 

Cast: Kate Beahan, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Susan Burke, Zoe Cooper, Gerald Downey, Karla Droege, Larry Fessenden, Dana Gould, Hassie Harrison, Davey Johnson, Nathalie Love, Hannah Marks, Tipper Newton, Maria Olsen, Kristina Pesic, Matt Peters, Anessa Ramsey, Fabianne Therese, Tyler Tuione, Chad Villella, Justin Welborn, David Yow, Mather Zickel

Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner and Patrick Horvath

Studio: The Orchard

MPAA Rating: NR

Running Time: 89 minutes

Release Date: February 5, 2016 (on demand February 9)

Southbound Movie Trailer

Southbound Movie Review

Playing the festival route, the horror anthology Southbound has earned a good deal of positive buzz prior to its release, but upon watching it, I couldn't help but wonder if the -ish scenario in the film had bled through into the real world, making fans and critics alike heap praise on such an unimaginative, un-scary, sloppily written film.

The Plot

There are five stories in Southbound. In "The Way Out," directed by Radio Silence (), two bloodied men are on the run from dark figures. In Roxanne Benjamin's "Siren," a touring female rock band gets a flat tire and ends up hitching a ride with an unusual married couple. In "The Accident," from David Bruckner (, V/H/S), a man accidentally hits a young woman with his car and rushes her to a strangely empty hospital, aided by an even stranger 911 operator.

In "Jailbreak," by Patrick Horvath (, ), a man searches for his long-lost sister in the seedy underbelly of a mysterious town. In "The Way In" (again, Radio Silence), a family is tormented by a trio of masked home invaders.

The End Result

Southbound has the sort of small scale, indie horror vibe that is all the rage these days, but it's a far cry from recent critical darlings like , and Goodnight Mommy, and frankly, it's not even in the league of recent genre anthologies like A Christmas Horror Story and Tales of Halloween.

On the surface, it seems like it should be a hearty slice of horror cinema, but everything feels just "off." It's clear what the filmmakers are going for, but they miss their mark time and time again -- from the script to the direction to the musical score (Note to the indie horror industry: We get it; you like retro, John Carpenter-y synth. Now move on.).

Most egregiously at fault is a script that fails to establish a consistent mythology for its setting of a seemingly hellish (or at the very least, "Hell-adjacent") desert town where all the stories take place. At times, it seems to be populated by demons. At other times, it seems to be home to trapped souls receiving punishment for past misdeeds. Then, in another story, there seem to be regular people who've done no wrong living there.

The fact that the tales are intertwined (albeit tenuously so in some instances) instead of rigid segmentation is nice but hardly revolutionary; films like and A Christmas Horror Story have done it far more effectively. I've heard praise for the wraparound story's twist ending, but it seems pretty obvious given how fragmented the tale to which it connects is.

Even disregarding the issues with the format and the overall concept, the individual stories in Southbound leave a lot to be desired.

If each was its own separate short film, you'd be hard-pressed not to shrug at the series of ho-hum outcomes. Generic horror conventions are trotted out ad nauseam (Spatial loops! Little kid ghosts running off screen! Flat tires on backcountry roads you shouldn't be on in the first place! Twins for no reason!), which would be forgivable if they were utilized within the context of fresh, evocative story lines.

Unfortunately, though, there's little original about the plots -- from "The Way In," the poor man's or The Strangers, to "Siren," which rehashes both the Satanic tropes of the '60s and '70s and the ghostly standards of today's popular haunted house pics in a messy, nonsensical mashup. The most unique is probably "The Accident," and even then, you have to suffer through the annoying "horror movie logic" of a protagonist who fails to identify that the people he's talking to are clearly not professionals and then never questions their twisted motives and endgame.

Perhaps most aggravating, though, is Southbound's disregard for what makes horror anthologies so much fun. The stories historically are clever, with twists and turns that deliver deliciously dark comeuppance to villains who deserve their morbid fate. Aside from the aforementioned predictable reveal, there's no attempt to present any twists (and if there are, the fact that they don't come off as twists shows how ineffective they are), and on more than one occasion, the stories just end without satisfactory resolution. To add insult to injury, the sins for which the people in this movie suffer seem largely minor (Texting and driving? Ditching a friend to go hook up with a guy in a club? Trying to bring your missing sister home?), making their punishment a bitter pill not just for the characters, but for the audience as well.

The Skinny

  • Acting: C (Solid, but not exactly star-making performances.)
  • Direction: C (Looks nice, but scares fall flat.)
  • Script: D (Poorly constructed stories with unimaginative genre elements and a predictable twist.)
  • Gore/Effects: C ("The Accident" has some grisly moments -- granted, it has the entertainment factor of watching someone perform open-heart surgery -- but other stories has some so-so CGI and makeup; seriously, some of the "creatures" look like tubby naked guys rolled in flour.)
  • Overall: C- (Certain to be one of the more overrated horror movies of 2016.)

Southbound is directed by Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner and Patrick Horvath and is not rated by the MPAA.

Release date: February 5, 2016 (on demand February 9).

Disclosure: The distributor provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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Your Citation
Harris, Mark H. "'Southbound' (2016)." ThoughtCo, Feb. 5, 2016, thoughtco.com/southbound-movie-review-3571824. Harris, Mark H. (2016, February 5). 'Southbound' (2016). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/southbound-movie-review-3571824 Harris, Mark H. "'Southbound' (2016)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/southbound-movie-review-3571824 (accessed December 12, 2017).