As a lifelong fan of the horror anthology, it's been super rewarding to see them make such a comeback over the last 10 years. While their overall quality is about as inconsistent as the segments in most anthologies, there have been enough good ones -- or even enough good segments inside of uneven movies -- to get me really excited about their revival. From Trick 'r Treat to Chillerama, the V/H/S films to last October's Tales of Halloween, horror anthologies have come back in a big bad way and I couldn't be happier about it.
The latest anthology to join the party is Southbound, put together by many of the same filmmakers responsible for the original V/H/S. The movie tells five stories, each of which bleed into one another in a way that's more Trick 'r Treat than it is Creepshow -- it works more like a continuous narrative that switches characters every 15 minutes or so. There's a unifying theme that ties all of the stories together: the characters have all made mistakes which they are either running from or which they're trying to atone. Some are more successful than others. Very few of them are.
The approach that the filmmakers take with Southbound -- from the writing stage through the execution -- helps to stave off a lot of the disparity that plagues a lot of horror anthologies. There aren't any segments that feel like they belong in different movies, which is no feat to accomplish when multiple filmmakers are collaborating on one anthology. There's a consistency to the tone and the execution that again makes it feel like one unfolding story that takes a number of different paths instead of something with a bunch of stops and starts. Great care has clearly been taken in the construction of the movie, and it's very impressive as anthologies go.
Even the segments that don't completely come together have moments that make them totally worthwhile. The things that are chasing the two men in "The Way In" are creepy and wonderfully designed, though better viewed at a slight distance because of some CGI. The female protagonists of Benjamin's contribution are a nice change of pace from, say, the bro-heavy subjects of the V/H/S movies, and all of the segments do a great job of creating scenarios that grow increasingly nightmarish and out of the characters' control. It's the film's organizing conceit, and while it's never explicit about their descent into Hell as punishment for actions that take place both on screen and off, there's no mistaking what's really going on here.
I've got a feeling Southbound is one of those horror movies that people are going to really flip out for -- I've heard as much coming out of the festival circuit -- but which I just liked. That's ok. It's well photographed and well constructed and, like a lot of recent indie horror, features a really cool score (by The Gifted). It distinguishes itself enough from other anthologies to work, even if the pieces didn't all come together for me. But between this and Intruders and Nina Forever, the horror movies of 2016 are off to a good start.