The thing I appreciate about Southbound, the latest in a long line of recent anthology horror films, is the group effort by all the filmmakers involved to create an elaborate and consistent mythology. There’s a world built in this movie, a world that has its own rules and history. It’s brought to life with some sub-par CGI, sure, but it gives the film’s episodic structure a fascinating backdrop. All five stories feel of a piece and intersect in ways that amount to one complete picture as opposed to a handful of loosely connected stand-alone shorts (like, say, in V/H/S). The connective tissue is totally natural to all the stories as well (hey hey Larry Fessenden as a gravelly DJ) which is rare.
Subsequently, the transition from one story to the next is very smooth and, while varied in scope and style, all the stories compliment one another. With each chapter you learn something new about the strange netherworld of Southbound. Sure the concept isn’t anything groundbreaking but it is presented in an off-hand, casual way that ensures the “why?” of everything doesn’t overshadow the “what?”. You don’t mind the weird floating skeletal creatures even though they’re never explicitly explained, just because having something so boldly imagined and designed (as in, obviously a creation, not that the design itself is bold) is refreshing in this sort done-to-death format.
The film balances imagery and ideas of both horror and dark fantasy which is quite ambitious for this sort of film. As with most anthology horrors though, only certain segments really stick in the imagination (Siren and The Accident were highlights for me) meaning your attention does drift here and there. It depends on what chills your blood, but for me Southbound wasn’t especially scary either which is a problem but, like I said, it has enough ambition elsewhere to make up for it. An ultimately average film, but there’s a lot of effort put into this thing which I respect and admire. As far as horror anthologies go, you could do much worse.