Directed by: Various
2 out of 5
Anthology horror films, for me, are a lot like found footage: It’s a rather ubiquitous genre, to the extent that you can roll your eyes and say “not another bloody-disgusting related anthology flick,” and yet, I will almost always give it a go, despite the true success rate being quite slim. I suppose in both cases, not very much is asked of the viewer, which means the filmmaker/s doesn’t/don’t necessarily have to do much to deliver one or two quality scenes. For FF, that’s the inevitable ending sequence, when things go bananas, and for anthologies, it means even delivering one good entry can save your flick from being a snooze.
And that’s what Southbound has: One good entry. Which is surprising, as I didn’t care much for the segment’s director’s previous short in V/H/S, Amateur Night, but David Bruckner’s ‘The Accident’ truly delivers, not just on a gooey and gory horror front, but also in keeping with Southbound’s hinted-at premise of showing us various people stuck in their own personal Hells. The other segments are entertaining but fairly obvious; they certainly don’t incite any sense of empathy, which would be helpful for twisting the gut-stuck knife in a flick like this. But in Accident, as we watch Lucas (Mather Zickel) do his panicked best to save the life of a hit-and-run victim – operating on them by proxy, instructed over the phone – we feel every half-second of indecision, spurred on by the well scripted twists that have the bit dodging usual horror character tropes. This, in turn, makes the final denouncement – which comes after all the blood and guts – more creepily effective, a lesson the other more bombastic shorts don’t seem to get.
Flip-flopping expectations, Radio Silence – the crew who delivered the only worthwhile entry in the original V/H/S – craft the disappointing opening and closing segments, which waste some cool grim reaper creature designs on a very unnatural editing pace, poor acting, and a script that hopes being vague is clever. The intro half of this tale is short enough to mostly withstand its hiccups and keep the viewer’s attentions through to the next bit, but the extended concluding portion is too much bluster to accomplish anything, suffering from the same tonal disconnect (“Wouldn’t it be cool to make a horror film because horror is cool?” as the prime motivator for your work) that affects a lot of these b-d directors.
Followup Siren, directed by Roxanne Benjamin, is better, starting with a fun, organic group dynamic between its leads that gets disrupted and corrupted by the creepy family that helps them out when their van breaks down in the middle of nowhere, but the mixed approach – part campy, part trying to align with Southbound themes – makes the goings a bit bumpy, and then it sorta gets tossed out the window for some lame zombie stuff in the final minutes. Retro spoiler, ’cause I got no respect.
The post-Bruckner bit (Jailbreak, directed by Patrick Horvath) is a notch below this: Scratch Acid-er David Yow waves a shotgun around a bar, looking for a girl, and, y’know, gets more than he bargained for. Again, there’s potential that sort of wanders, as we deal with an other-wordly realm accessed via a mystical tattoo… but it’s truly pointless for the plot, only offering a briefly interesting visual.
Will this review change your viewing potential if you’re an anthology fan like me? Probably not. Will my experience here prevent me from watching the next anthology flick? Of course not.