Why are so many movies ninety minutes long? Blame the Europeans. An age-old European Broadcasting Union (EBU) rule dictates that a feature-length film with commercials should total two hours exactly. Odd, maybe, but this does come from the outfit that brought us Eurovision Song Contest.
A Blumhouse trick is to slow down the end-credits crawl, but there’s no denying a lot of horror movies are padded to reach the lucrative ninety-minute mark. All of which is a roundabout way to say I enjoy anthologies. You get precise, concise stories without the fluff, oftentimes with an über-story to connect them all – the best of both worlds, in other words.
V/H/S might be the more famous modern take on horror anthologies, but, for my money, Southbound is the better film. This five-story opus connects stories with a surprising amount of depth and surrealism. There’s more to the package than V/H/S’ often juvenile stories, even with the two films sharing writers and directors.
Southbound’s greater plot is bound together by its first segment,
The Way Out. We find Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin) on the run from having done something awful. Exactly what, we are not told. Floating demons are stalking them, and the pair tries to escape into a gas station. The events that follow show that the two’s fates are sealed, and as Mitch accepts what will happen next, a series of events – anthology segments – start dominoing into place.
Getting too far into how the other stories work veers into spoiler territory but it suffices to say that they’re eerie and still work on a standalone level. This while being properly integrated into the full story.
Siren, the next segment, has a different tone than
The Way Out, but toward the end of the cult(?) storyline, the bricks keep falling into the next part,
The Accident. This is my favorite story of the lot – a surreal nightmare where Lucas (Mather Zickel) desperately tries to save a person he accidentally hits with his car. 911 operators who may or may not guide him through life-saving(?) procedures seemingly know him. Around him, Lucas’s world gradually falls apart until… Well, let’s not spoil anything. The stories are very much glued together.
Jailbreak follows and leads into
The Way In. I’ll skip saying much about either, aside from the latter’s title hinting what the overarching plot actually
Ultimately, I suppose what that
is truly is, is eerie. Creepy and unsettling. The stories might be tonally different – understandably so, with the different writers and directors – but they still make up a coherent package. Every protagonist in the greater scheme of things shares a commonality. What that is doesn’t become clear until the end. And at that point, you probably will be scheduling a re-watch.
As for the ninety-minute policy, it looks to become an extinct policy thanks to streaming. Gems like Dementia Part II clock in at just over an hour. Why pad a story when it doesn’t need the fluff?
At any rate, Southbound is properly paced. The stories don’t wear out their welcome, and the grand plot is puzzled together in a satisfying manner. Movie of the year? Maybe in 2015 when it was released, and we instead were looking at trash like Twixt. A bad call on our end. Southbound is a true classic.
Letterboxd summary: The film contains five stories set on desolate stretches of a desert highway. Two men on the run from their past, a band on its way to a 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 in these interwoven tales.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||5/6|