Over the course of a single day, along a deserted state highway somewhere in the desert, five subtly interconnected tales of terror (introduced by a gravelly voiced, ominous radio DJ, played by Larry Fessenden) unfurl. Two dudes covered in blood find themselves trapped in a time loop and pursued by fallen angels. A three-piece all-female rock band suffer a tire blowout and hitch a ride with a seemingly innocuous married couple that harbour demonic intentions. A distracted driver on his cellphone brings the body of someone he hit to a creepy, abandoned hospital. An old man with a shotgun infiltrates a secret society, with hopes of rescuing his long-lost sister. And a family wanting to spend one final weekend with their teenage daughter before she heads off to university find themselves the victim of a terrifying home invasion.
While anthology horror is back in vogue, the uniquely solid Southbound blows all other examples out of the water quite handily. Although the five stories boast different writers and directors (Patrick Hovarth, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner and filmmaking collective Radio Silence), they blend together so seamlessly that it feels like everyone was on the same page, in terms of tone, construction and sense of menace. While some tales are deeper and more developed than others, there aren’t any weak links (although, admittedly, the hospital sequence is the biggest, squirmiest highlight).
What makes Southbound almost revolutionary is that none of the segments are played as jokes (despite all of them boasting a great deal of humour), none are found footage, all of them are incredibly cinematic and, most importantly, they’re scary and gory without being misogynistic, sleazy or torturous. It’s the purest old-school horror show I’ve seen in ages. John Carpenter, George Romero and the Cryptkeeper would approve.