The anthology is a tricky thing to pull off. When you are making a movie which is a group of interlocking stories, you better hope that each story can live up to the other stories. Because if not there will be a disjointed imbalance that can fog up the other details of the movie. What makes both "V/H/S" and "V/H/S 2" two of the best horror anthologies is because no segment is stronger than the other in each of those movies. Each segment can stand on its own terms and it can also compliment the rest of the movie. That is a hard thing to pull off, and I watch both of those movies now and remain baffled by how strong they are.
Radio Silence is a horror team of directors who came together to create the first "V/H/S" and they even directed one of the segments for the film. Now, they are back with another anthology horror film called "Southbound." There is no found footage device in any segments of "Southbound." But there are five interlocking stories that connect to the characters. When the film begins we see Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin) are driving in a truck down a highway, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They are bloodied and exhausted. Whatever they are involved in, it has gone disastrously wrong, and they are trying to figure out what their next move is. I love it when a movie keeps me confused in order to lure me into the story line, and I have to say the first segment was successful in that aspect. The duo goes to a diner, and something is off about it from the get-go. It gets even weirder when the diner starts to shake and the duo begins to be stalked by floating dark figures. By the end of the segment, I could tell that this was going to be nowhere near the same mood or style as "V/H/S" and that's quite alright with me.
To explain the rest of the movie in a nutshell is to say that nothing is what it seems. There is an all-girl rock band who gets a flat tire and the family that helps them isn't who they seem. Then a man runs over a woman and the hospital and 911 call he makes aren't what they seem. Then a man goes on a vigilante hunt for his sister and his findings aren't what they seem. Finally, a group of criminals try to kill a family and that family isn't what they seem. To be honest, the group of criminals aren't who they seem either. Whats kind of amazing about each of these segments is that everything is off about them. What is it about this highway in the middle of nowhere that is causing so much trouble? How are all of these people connected? Well, the answer comes blatantly obvious in the second-to-last segment. I think if you take a good look at the film's poster, you also get a good idea of where this is headed. But that's OK. I am not sure the movie was trying to be secret or deceptive. I think it was trying to make one wild ride.
I have to say overall, "Southbound" is a wild ride. There isn't a single recognizable actor in any of the segments, but each segment is supremely acted. There is a dirty, rugged backdrop to the cinematography that added to the flavor of the movie. There are moments of abundant gore and sometimes, it even gets cartoonish. But I am sure that is due to a smaller budget and for what its worth, each segment does the best they can with their resources.
But here's the rub. The segment with the all-girl band is the best of the bunch. By a freaking mile its the best of the bunch. Its the only segment that actually is genuinely scary. The situation the band finds themselves in is creepy from the start, and it only gets worse from there. There is a dream sequence that literally made me cover my eyes. I still have images from "The Witch" still dancing in my head, and I don't need to add to that horrid cocktail at this particular moment. Its a wonderful segment, but none of the rest of them can match it. Its a night and day difference and its precisely what let's this film down. When you have one great segment sticking out around a bunch of mediocre segments, it renders the entire anthology almost useless.
But, I liked some of the energy in the other segments. There sure is a slick style to the film at large that hit my sweet spot. It just can't match up with one other segment. That is the hesitation of making anthology movies, and while "Southbound" doesn't complete succeed, I think its still worth checking out. I think Radio Silence is becoming a horror group to look for and I can't wait to see what they conjure next.
FINAL GRADE: B