Southbound

 

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SOUTHBOUND is an 89-minute, blood-soaked, 5-part horror anthology from 2015 that buzzed the film festival circuit, had a what-was-that? release that brought in less than $24,000 and went then due south to video. Quite a few reviewers liked it.  They liked it quite a bit more than this one: initially intrigued, my interest—let alone giving a damn—flagged after the third episode, the decently arranged effects and gut-level creepiness losing out to the numbing effect of garish ugliness and terribly lazy scripting. We can do nihilistic shock-schlock as well as the next chainsawed zombie, but being battered friggin’ senseless by nonstop use the good old F-word is a stiff price to pay for a few cheap jolts.

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Five interlocking stories set in the southern California desert. Five segments with four directors (Roxanne Benjamin, Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath), six writers, five editors, four cinematographers and 51 people credited with “Special Thanks”. Though each episode has a different gig, they all look and sound so much alike that there’s no reason to further enumerate or single out any of the technicians.

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“The Way Out” has two guys who swear a lot on the run from some grotesque creatures that float in the air and appear at will. There is no escape. “Siren” has a girl jazz band trio making a tres stupido mistake by taking a lift from husband & wife weirdos when their van has a flat in the middle of BF-Egypt. Cult worship and meat loaf that makes you barf black bile are on the menu. “The Accident” comes about when a fella driving at night runs over a woman in the middle of the highway and is directed by voices purporting to be 911 operators to take her to a hospital, which is deserted, and then perform dramatic surgery by himself.  “Jailbreak” has a shotgun-wielding brother taking hostages in a bar while looking for his missing sister, which he’ll soon regret. “The Way In” is a variation on the home-invasion nightmare, and it’s body count payoff brings us full circle back to the foul-mouthed dudes we met at the start.

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“The Way In” has effectively neat monsters. “Siren” gets points for freaky atmosphere with the cult geeks that waylay the girls. “The Accident” is the definite highlight, with wild gory yuck that’s fun in a repulsive way, and features the best acting in the film, by Mather Zickel as the hapless driver–he nails some good line readings and looks of WTF incredulity. Things head downhill then with “Jailbreak” and end on a disturbing note with the needless nastiness of “The Way In”. By then, I was on the way out.

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Conceptually, it’s on good gruesome ground, and the deserted Mohave locales work to heighten the tension (ever drive alone on the desert at night?). Some of the effects–those ravenous monsters and the insanely vile operation sequence—are pretty neat. But the atrociously crappy dialog in the first, fourth and fifth segments feels like it was written by 13-year-olds. At the very least, there are other 4-letter words….

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You won’t recognize—and will never see again—any of these people, but, to play fair with a game bunch, the cast includes Fabianne Terese, Chad Villella, Matt Bettenelli-Olpin, Hannah Marks, Nathalie Love, Susan Burke, Davey Johnson, David Yow, Tipper Newton, Hassie Harrison, Gerald Downey and Kate Beahan. Larry Fessenden provides the voice of the Wolfman Jack-like DJ who links the various episodes. Music score is by The Gifted. Desert locations were around the California burgs of Palmdale, Twenty-Nine Palms, Amboy and Lancaster.

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