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Southbound (2015)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 5/17/2016

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/9/2016

If you check out the resumes for a good number of directors, you will see that they got their start by making short films. This only makes sense, as it must be good practice to cut one's teeth constructing a movie with a shorter running time before graduating to a feature film. This also allows filmmakers to explore ideas which don't demand a 90-minute-plus running time. This sort of philosophy can be applied to anthologies. When you assemble a collection of short stories in film firm, the audience is presented with mini-movies where the director can hone the craft of packing everything into a tight space. We've recently seen a spate of anthology films which contain entries from various directors. Southbound takes this idea and puts a somewhat new spin on it.

With most anthologies, there is a framing device which links, even in a most tenuous fashion, the stories, such as the comic book in Creepshow or the burglars in V/H/S. Southbound bucks this trend by doing away with the framing device and simply offering a series of stories in which the characters are all driving on desert highways. The segments transition from one to another, with each filmmaker passing the baton to the next.

The five segments are:

"The Way Out" -- Directed by Radio Silence, Written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin -- Two men in a truck, both of whom are covered in blood, are barreling down a desert road, fleeing from black, spectral beings which hover above the ground. Their attempts to escape turn into a Twilight Zone-esque loop.

Southbound opens strong with this entry...perhaps too strong as it's all downhill from here. With their entry in V/H/S, the collective known as Radio Silence showed that they had strong visual skills, and that is echoed here, as the visual effects used for the wraiths are very simple, yet very effective. This segment is very short (although it is continued in the finale) and I wanted to see more of it.

"Siren" -- Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, Written by Roxanne Benjamin & Susan Burke -- An all-girl rock band are on their way to a gig when their van breaks down in the desert. They are rescued by an odd couple, who take them to their house, where they are soon joined by more weird people for dinner.

This is a very by-the-numbers "things aren't what they seem" story, where one person grasps that they are in danger. The use of weird food and odd costuming doesn't change the fact that we've seen this all before. The lack of likeable characters kills any chance at suspense.

"The Accident" -- Written & Directed by David Bruckner -- A man driving through the desert hits a hitchhiker. He debates leaving the scene, but decides to do the right thing and try to save her. While loading her into his car, he calls 911 and begins to gets instructions from the various professionals on the line. He drives to a nearby town where he finds no assistance.

If you are looking for an endurance test, this is it. Once the driver starts trying to save the hitchhiker, the piece turns into one long, agonizing medical nightmare, as broken bones and squirting blood abound. It is very gory, but it also borders on absurd and it's certainly redundant. I'll be honest, I fast-forwarded through most of this, as it was very boring.

"Jailbreak" -- Directed by Patrick Horvath, Written by Patrick Horvath & Dallas Hallam -- A desperate man, who is wielding a shotgun, bursts into a bar, asking for information about his missing sister. The bartender claims that he knows where she is, and is forced, at gunpoint, to drive the man there. Once they arrive, the man finds that his sister is no longer the person that he once knew.

Hovath and Hallam, who brought us the disappointing The Pact II, disappoint once again with this nearly pointless entry. The sister has changed over the years? What a surprise. This borders on having no story whatsoever, and we never learn why it took the man so long to get this lead on his sibling.

"The Way In" -- Directed by Radio Silence, Written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin -- A family who are apparently vacationing in a house (Air BNB?), are the victims of a home invasion by three masked men. The men keep demanding something from the father, who simply keeps apologizing. The teenaged daughter hides in a closet. Should she escape or try to save her parents?

Again, there is simply too little here to amount to much. The only positive thing is that it wraps back around to the film's opening.

One of the points of an anthology is to present stories which aren't long enough to justify a feature-length film. However, that doesn't excuse the filmmakers for not attempting to incorporate some sort of solid plot and some character development. Save for "Siren", all of the entries here are simply an idea followed by some action. We get no details and we don't get to know the characters. On top of that, all of the tales here are very hackneyed and tired. A home invasion? A weird family? That's the best that you could come up with? Several of the people behind Southbound were also involved in the V/H/S movies. While those films weren't very good either, at leas they tried to do something shocking. Southbound is simply lazy. I hate to sound old, but today's generation apparently has no idea how to make an anthology.

Southbound is light on both traffic and deep thoughts on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the depth is adequate for a DVD. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects are notable and work quite well throughout the bulk of the movie. There are ample opportunities for sounds coming from off-screen and these shine here. The subwoofer kicks in during the "shock" moments.

The Southbound DVD contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY which features various members of the cast and the creative team, who offer insights and production anecdotes. The Disc offers two DELETED SCENES which runs 92-seconds and are both very brief. The "Outtakes Reel" (11 minutes) shows an abundance of bloopers from the shoot and implies that the film may have been called "Subgenre" at one point. The "Photo Gallery" contains several stills from the set.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long