Friday, July 7, 2017

When All Roads Lead To A Recursive Nightmare, or Thoughts on Southbound

 I do love me a good anthology horror movie (or even a bad one), the audience benefits from the multiple filmmakers all sharing the load and offering different stories and points of view but the real genius and attraction for me is the wraparound story; getting all these puzzle pieces to fit together into a cohesive unit.  Movies like V/H/S (2012) deftly skirt the issue by offering a stack of found footage tapes, while Southbound (2015) dives head in; presenting four connecting stories in what I suppose we could call an existential American Southwest gothic.
In the first segment, entitled The Way Out, the movie opens with two desperadoes straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie, on the run, covered in blood and driving down one of those endless one-point perspective desert highways.  They’re pursued by black floaty CGI skeleton Grim Reapers and end up at a surreal diner where the patrons are watching Carnival of Souls (1962, a clever reference if you’ve seen the film).  But once they arrive they can never leave; all roads lead back to that diner and the adjacent hotel.
There’s an indie girl band staying at that hotel in Siren, with the requisite hipster VW bus that breaks down in the middle of nowhere.  Lucky for them they run into a nice couple who seem stuck in the ‘50s.  Unlucky for them, the nice couple belongs to a satanic doomsday cult, as one does, out in the desert.  Watch out for Hannah Marks from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency as Ava.
The only girl to escape Siren (sorry, not Ava) gets hit by an unlucky driver in The Accident, my favorite of the segments.  With a sly retro synth soundtrack reminiscent of Jon Carpenter, the film short effectively builds tension as the driver talks to 911 and performs emergency surgery.  One of the dispatchers from The Accident hangs up the phone and steps into a bar in the next segment, Jailbreak.  A man comes in with a shotgun looking for his sister but this is no ordinary bar and he soon finds himself in interlocking circles of hell.
Finally, The Way In brings the audience back to the start with a Purge-style home invasion that’s actually a prequel to the first segment.  It’s hellish Twilight Zone territory in the blinding Southwest sun but don’t go into this movie looking for a Hollywood explanation.  These are fragments of stories that are designed to intrigue, and the information void created is both filled and frustrated by audience expectation.  The Way Out was directed by Radio Silence, a trio of filmmakers, while The Accident was directed by David Bruckner; all from V/H/S (2012, I didn’t pull that reference out of a hat, it’s all connected, just like this movie).

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