The Horror of Desert Horror
Southbound is a 2015 film created by the trio known as Radio Silence consisting of Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and Tyler Gillett. They are best known for V/H/S and Ready or Not. They are also directing 2022’s upcoming Scream sequel.
Southbound is an anthology that takes place around a desert and a strip of highway that connects several stories together. Five tales of terror interlock to follow the fates of a group of travellers. Over the course of the longest night of their lives, the group must confront their worst nightmares and darkest secrets along a desolate stretch of desert highway.
Like most people, I have been watching many movies as COVID continues. Southbound caught my attention because it is an anthology, takes place around a desert, has survival horror elements, and I am a big fan of both the V/H/S and Scream franchises.
There is a lot to love about this movie. The desert feels like a character itself and is integral to the character interactions, set pieces, and build up. The pacing is fantastic, the 90 minutes are used very well. The story feels complete, having both depth and based on lore.
The desert is shown both during the day and at night. As a viewer, you can feel the heat, dust, and the pure vastness of the landscape. The characters acknowledge and interact with the desert and highway quite a bit throughout the runtime.
The shots used for transitions truly standout. The way the stories move seamlessly into each other to signify the start and end of segments is phenomenal. For example, going from the accident segment to the jailbreak segment, a character is on the phone and continues their conversation as the story moves along.
The effects and sets outside of the desert in Southbound consist of practical filming locations, practical effects, and VFX/CGI. Everything practical is done very well however the CGI leaves a lot to be desired. Even so, it is still more than watchable and does not detract from the story.
Each of the five segments centers around men running from strange floating entities. One segment features a band whose van breaks down on the highway, seeking help from some strange locals. Other segments involve an accident, a man looking for his lost sister, and what is essentially a home invasion.
The soundtrack used throughout Southbound compliments the action perfectly. It is performed by the band The Gifted. It is somewhat unsettling with analog synths, yet the sounds are all very cohesive in the context of the vibe and different from most scores in horror movies.
The cast is made up of mainly unknown actors, however the acting is definitely above average. Every cast member carries their weight and delivers believable performances.
Southbound deals with interesting themes in creative ways as well. It touches on loss, punishment, and sinning to name a few.
The ending stuck out to me as it recontextualizes the entire movie and timeline of events starting with even the opening dialogue and scene. This leads to also many interesting deeper meanings and easter eggs to find. However, there is still a lot left unexplained and does not fill in all of the possible gaps. Upon rewatching, there are many connections inspiring interesting theories. I would love to see a sequel someday.
Southbound is available for streaming on Hulu, Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, and Shudder. Watch Southbound if you have a free hour and a half in your day. You will not regret it, but make sure you pay attention!
Southbound (2015) Official Trailer
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