When traveling to the southern United States, make sure all hatches are tightly sealed, the barrel of the shotgun fits through the loopholes, and the machine gun on the roof is well-oiled and ready to use. Follow the universal precepts of seasoned hikers, viz: never pick up hitchhikers and do not spend the night in roadside motels. If possible, you should meet your needs in the car. And God forbid you to stop at a bar called “Twisted Tits.
Dixieland’s kilometers of arid deserts don’t offer much visual diversity. A lonely tumbleweed and a couple of skinny coyotes are the main characters in the local horror theater. And then there’s the heat. The heat is relentless and scorching, and just the sight of the southern sun can make you thirsty. You should make a Western or an art-house drug movie in this kind of scenery. However, as night falls, his majesty the highway pulls the blanket over itself. Is there anything in the world more hypnotizing than a ribbon of asphalt running off into the darkness?
Creatures are more fearsome than coyotes waking up at night. The ancient myths of Mesoamerican culture come alive and make those urban legends of yours smoke nervously on the sidelines. And now, the impenetrable forests of West Virginia, with their incestuous cannibals, are as hospitable and native as the motherland. At least everything is clear there: caught in a bear trap – stunned with a club – dismembered – salted for the winter in three-liter jars. In the south, everything is stranger and stranger. It was as if the devil himself had come out of the underworld to play with human souls.
“Southbound” is good primarily because it has found its own niche in the realm of good old-fashioned horror anthologies. The film is undoubtedly “older” than such icons of the genre as George A. Romero’s “Creepshow” or John Harrison’s “Tales from the Dark Side. The new brainchild of the «V/H/S» trilogy’s creators is so harsh that it might have snuck into Greg Marks’ “11:14” reserved territory were it not for its complete lack of a sense of black humor. “Southbound” reveals its earnestness, which is the payoff.
A common feature of all the local novellas is the element of understatement. The viewer simply doesn’t know what’s going on here or how to relate to it. Terrible things happen to the characters – but why? Don’t expect an answer. The mystery is the creepy beauty of “Southbound.” We’re free to speculate and build theories, but we’ll never find out for sure. Maybe that’s right because ancient evil doesn’t have to be rational; it’s chaotic by default. One thing is clear: each of the characters of the film has skeletons gathering dust in their closets, which sooner or later come to life and bring retribution in the most unexpected ways. Perhaps the only outsider in this feast of mystical karts is a guy named Lucas, who has been cast in an original role with all that entails. It remains to be seen what is worse – to become a victim of evil or a surgical instrument in the hands of Satan.
Lucas and his shiny Audi are clearly in the wrong direction, that’s all. Note the authentic types of the other characters (and don’t forget the cars): two suspicious folks in an old Ford pickup truck, as if they had escaped from a James Hedley Chase detective; a girlie jazz band with a cult Volkswagen hippie car; an old couple of affable Southerners in a well-worn Mercedes… the guys seem to be driving through a time loop, not even trying to get out of it. What a good idea for ironic torture in hell. Especially for people stuck in the last century.
The novellas (there are five altogether) are atmospheric and feature excellent acting, which is a bit unusual for such a low-budget project. The computer special effects are frankly cheap, but they work flawlessly in conjunction with the stunning synth-wave soundtrack, bringing back fond memories of the best representatives of the eighties horror industry. Nostalgia for John Carpenter and Toob Hooper ordered?
Perhaps comparisons with Greg Marx’s masterpiece are inappropriate because “Southbound” is much simpler in terms of the script, though it is a triplet relative on all fronts. While “11:14″‘s construction is a graceful and light lace, ” H/V/S” is like a hamburger with a firecracker bursting in it. “Southbound,” on the other hand, occupies a position somewhere in the middle. The local stories are connected rather conventionally; there is no straightforward storyline or higher morality. Nevertheless, the film grabs you from the first shots and does not let you go until the very end.
It’s not easy to unearth the treasure in the dung heap, and all the sweeter is the triumph when you discover something that makes your heart beat faster. “Southbound” is a real gem. Messy and uneven, and therefore priceless.
The Meaning of the Film Southbound
Among critics, there are many who praise “Southbound” to the skies, attributing to that anthology both a profound philosophy and a unique artistic value. Do not believe it; there’s nothing of that in it. It’s just a good anthology, even excellent and catchy. But there’s no talk of arthouse, moralizing, or other difficulties. “Southbound” will entertain you, not bore you. The only people who can see the more profound meaning are those who don’t watch much horror or thrillers. In general, it is perfectly normal for horror movies to spice up nightmares with a touch of notation and philosophy. After all, horror stories are about people before they’re about boogeymen.
Certainly, there are subtle hints of philosophy and morality in this movie. They’re not so overt and intrusive to turn the horrors into a philosophical parable, but they’re not so weak that they do not leave a trace. That’s hard to say that there’s something innovative here. For example, personal hell as a constant scrolling through one’s own experiences was perfectly illustrated by Bulgakov in the instance of Frida. The search for cheap excuses, voluntary slavery, two graves for revenge, etc. All of this is quite familiar to us. All these refrains in
the movie; is presented in such a way that they sink into the soul and leave their mark, but a shallow one.
By the way, not only the moral but also the techniques in the film are simple and commonplace, long familiar and therefore appealing to the horror lover. The looped road, and the bar, are subtly reminiscent not only of “From Dusk Till Dawn” but also of many other works with a similar vibe. A family is going on vacation, a car breaking down in the middle of a deserted highway – we’ve seen all these many times; these images have already become distinctive, alive, and each of these images already tells a story in and of itself. Yes, most of the time, modern filmmakers use these techniques without talent, but the creators of “Southbound” treated them with respect.
But with all these undoubted advantages, the film falls far short of being a masterpiece. It lacks something. Maybe the quality of shooting, the scale of landscapes and scenery. For example, the house where the three girls were taken was very badly shot. The scenes with the brother rescuing his sister were too dark. The tentacles coming out of the ground were ridiculous, etc. A lot of small flaws undermined the overall impression and did not allow us to call the “Southbound” a masterpiece.
Why you should see this film
“Southbound” is a true anthology, exciting and disgusting at the same time. What makes this movie special is the radio with a voiceover that says all kinds of cool phrases like:
“We all have some shit in our past, and if it suddenly comes up, you better be ready for it.”
“We’re all going down an unnamed highway with no exits or “running from today to tomorrow. We’re just trying to find our home, aren’t we? They’ll try to stop you, but you have to say “fuck off “; and move on because this is your road, and maybe it’s today that you’ll be able to cast off your demons once and for all.” This DJ voice, pouring from the ubiquitous radio, accompanies all the characters. It creates a particular mood and completely immerses you in the magic of a track that can take you to who knows where.
The second thing about this picture: This film is not just a collection of stories. All these tales are organically and inextricably woven into one sticky, atmospheric web in which the viewer becomes entangled. And if you can easily pull out any story from “The ABCs of Death,”; then there is no way to tear off a piece from “Southbound.”
Third thing: some disgustingly believable scenes with a girl crippled by accident. You know, when a broken leg falls off, it’s a big deal. I don’t even feel comfortable writing about it right now, and I can still see it in my mind’s eye! But it’s also an exceptional talent to show a mutilated body so realistically that the viewer will feel not just disgust and repulsion but absolute horror and revulsion. Not even in “Saw” can I recall such strong and stylish shots. But the cool thing about this film is that there isn’t a lot of that crap. Each story has its own accents, for all tastes, from mysticism to crime. That’s why the reviews are mixed: everyone found their own hook and their horror in it. I still don’t know what makes me feel this movie, nauseous or delighted. But I do know that I was not bored!
Well, the main thing about “Southbound” is the lack of context.
The screenwriter does not reveal all the causes and effects, showing only isolated moments of the stories. The viewer is left with an interest and a feeling but no complete understanding. I like that; it’s really like a road trip where you’re confronted with the individual moments in the lives of the people you meet along the way. You see them only at the moment, not knowing what brought them here and what will become of them later. But for many viewers, the understatement and unexplainability are distasteful.