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“Southbound” is an anthology horror film currently streaming on Hulu and at least four more different streamers, and you can rent or buy it in at least seven different online outlets. As an anthology film, it’s different from others in the sense that doesn’t have a wrapper.
Maybe saying that this anthology doesn’t have a wrapper is not 100% accurate. It does have one, but not in the traditional sense. It doesn’t have an overarching plot that wraps its five stories into one, but it does have a highway as the backdrop that connects all the five stories.
Another way in which this movie does things differently is that each of the stories connects with the one that follows it in some way, and that’s how it manages to still wrap all of them up together, even if the highway alone would have worked as the only nexus between each story.
There are five different stories to this movie, so I can’t make a general synopsis of the plot and the characters because it would skew the size of this review. What I’m going to say is that each segment lasts for about fifteen minutes.
There’s a harrowing, long-drawn scene featuring Fabianne Therese as Sadie in the third story of the anthology that is kind of very excruciating and hard to watch. Not as hard as, say, a scene of skinning alive a character, but not far from that in disturbing imagery.
The most memorable acting in “Southbound”, for me, was the acting of most actors in segment two. In which Sadie and her two friends, after suffering a mishap with their car, are taken to the house of a family of very funny, freaky hicks.
Now, you’ll notice I named the Sadie character as acting in both the first segment and the third of the movie. Well, that’s something that might or might not have been used before in anthology films: having characters go beyond the end of the story we meet them and have a part in the story that follows, I liked that.
Other than that, I liked that besides that each story is strung together, the ending interlocks with the beginning. I liked all this way of making each story gel together with the others, and I loved the desert, secluded feel that this move overall has.
What I didn’t like in this movie that the overarching plot was too simple and forgettable. I think the creators did let a lot of good dark stuff this movie could have featured in the subtext, instead of bringing it to the front with more gruesomeness, sensationalism, and mystical or occult meaning.
What I learned from this movie is that you can create a subtle mindscrew horror movie, and if you choose the anthology format to do it, you have way, way more leeway for originality. Still, I thought the general structure of the movie gave more opportunities for spiritual and psychological (think astral plane and similar occult things) exploitation of the narratives that weren’t there.
If you like mindscrew horror movies like “Lost Highway” or the imagery and smartness of “Reeker”, I endorse “Southbound” to you, because it owes some of its elements to those two movies and the story is more or less similar.
If you watched “Reeker”, you’re are going to have a preconceived idea about what this movie is about from the first story.
If you hate horror movies when they promise a lot and then let you feeling underwhelmed, then don’t watch this one because you’re going to be waiting for some big, horrifying reveal at the end, and that ain’t going to happen, trust me.
If you already watched it or if don’t care about having the reveal spoiled by me. Then I’ll tell you what I personally think that this movie insinuates as its meaning in some of its parts. It gives the viewer an ambiguous sensation that all the stories are happening in some kind of purgatory-like in “Lost” or similar dead-all-along stories.
Still, it never goes too far to confirm this fact. This suspicion is all the heavier for those that watched “Reeker” first because the first story feature’s a seriously creepy species of demon that while not very similar to the one in “Reeker”, it reminds you of it because of the situation.