Southbound (2015 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Music by||The Gifted|
Willowbrook Regent Films
|Distributed by||The Orchard|
Southbound is a 2015 American anthology horror film directed by Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, and Patrick Horvath. Produced by Brad Miska, the film premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 16, 2015, and was released theatrically on February 5, 2016 in a limited release. The film was included on numerous Best Horror Films of 2016 lists including those by Rolling Stone, Buzzfeed and the Thrillist.
Five interlocking tales of terror follow the fates of a group of weary travellers who confront their worst nightmares and darkest secrets on a desolate stretch of desert highway.
The Way Out
Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin) are on the run from mysterious floating creatures. Filled with remorse, Mitch looks at a photograph of his daughter Katherine as they drive down a nameless highway. Out in the desert, Mitch sees the creatures stalking them but does not tell Jack. In desperation, the pair pulls up to a run-down gas station. Inside, the men witness strange events as the creatures stalk them from afar. As Mitch and Jack attempt to escape, they pull up to the same gas station further down the road. Jack tries to leave as the creatures close in on the pair, and is killed. Mitch, believing that this is the fate he deserves, refuses to leave and instead follows the creatures to a nearby motel. He enters room 6255 and finds himself in a home that he finds familiar. Hearing the sound of his disembodied daughter, Mitch follows the sounds and finds an apparition of his daughter Katherine, who begs for his help. As he moves closer to his daughter, however, she continues to run away. Mitch is trapped in the hallway of the house, tormented until death by the regret he was not able to help his daughter.
- Directed by Roxanne Benjamin
- Written by Roxanne Benjamin & Susan Burke
At the same motel are Sadie (Fabianne Therese), Ava (Hannah Marks), and Kim (Nathalie Love), traveling musicians in a band called The White Tights. Leaving the motel, visiting landmarks, stalked by the floating creatures, their van's tire goes flat and they are forced to pull over. Stranded in the middle of the desert, they are picked up by a friendly, eccentric couple (Susan Burke and Davey Johnson). In the backseat of their car, Sadie sees a bear trap. The band is taken to the couple's house further down the road. Inside, the band is shown to their room; Sadie hears the woman mention their late friend Alex, but neither Ava nor Kim seem to notice. At dinner with the Kensingtons (Anessa Ramsey and Dana Gould), who live nearby with twin sons, they are served a meal of burnt meatloaf; Sadie, a vegetarian, politely declines. After dinner, Kim begins to blame Sadie for Alex's death, whereupon both Ava and Kim suddenly begin vomiting a black substance. Sadie gets help and the people in the house give Ava and Kim a white liquid medicine to drink. Sadie confronts her friends for their strange behavior and tries to persuade them to leave; they refuse, in a trance, and decide to stay the night at the house. That night, Sadie has a nightmare of Alex being killed in a car accident. Waking up in the middle of the night, Ava and Kim are gone. She finds them outside around a bonfire, participating in a strange cult ritual with the others in the house. Investigating from the brush nearby, Sadie's foot becomes caught in the bear trap seen in the couple's car the day before. Hearing the commotion, Ava and Kim give chase as Sadie escapes the trap and moves into a nearby shed; here, she is accosted by an apparition of Alex. Terrified, Sadie runs out into the road and hails an approaching car for help.
In the road behind her, one of the floating enigmatic creatures can be seen watching Sadie.
- Directed by David Bruckner
- Written by David Bruckner
The driver of the car, Lucas (Mather Zickel), talks to his wife Claire on the phone. Distracted, he does not see Sadie and she is hit by his car. Lucas exits the car and sees Sadie lying on the ground, critically injured, and calls 911; however, he is unable to tell the dispatcher where he is. A certified EMT gets on the line to help. The voices of the dispatcher and the EMT tell Lucas to drive Sadie to a nearby town, where he finds a medical facility. Entering the facility, he finds it completely abandoned; after searching for help, the dispatcher opts to guide Lucas through performing lifesaving surgery; a third voice, that of a doctor, gets on the line. The surgery eventually fails, and Sadie dies; the voices begin to laugh at Lucas, and he hangs up. He tries to escape the hospital but finds that all doors are locked. Shortly after, his phone rings again; the dispatchers persuade Lucas to talk about the incident. They agree that Lucas did not deserve this, and promptly tell him that he can leave. They mysteriously provide him with access to clean clothes and a new car, so it will be as though nothing happened. Lucas, hesitant to leave, is reassured that he will not need to worry about Sadie's death. He leaves the facility, enters the car, and drives away.
As he does, one of the floating creatures can be seen on the edge of the road overseeing the events.
- Directed by Patrick Horvath
- Written by Dallas Hallam & Patrick Horvath
Sandy (Maria Olsen), the dispatcher on the phone with Lucas, watches him drive away from a nearby payphone. She hangs up, and walks into a bar named The Trap; across the parking lot, Danny (David Yow) gets out of his car. Inside, the bartender Al (Matt Peters) reprimands Sandy for leaving the door open. An argument ensues between the two and Warren (Tyler Tuione), another patron in the bar. Danny barges in with a shotgun, and demands to know the location of his sister. Warren, revealed to be a demon, cuts a gash into Danny's back; Danny blows off Warren's clawed hand with the shotgun. Danny takes Al hostage and forces him to drive to his sister's location: the back room of an ice cream parlor. There are demons Danny cannot see closing in on him as Al leads him through a secret entrance into a hidden room. Inside the room, he finds his sister Jesse (Tipper Newton) applying a tattoo to a patron's back. Danny tells Jesse that he has come to rescue her; she tells him that she is there by choice, and refuses to leave. Danny kills Al and kidnaps his sister, carrying her to his car. The locals, all demons, chase Danny as he drives away. Coming to a pause before a rough dead end, Jesse begs Danny not to go off the road; Danny, with the locals in pursuit, decides he has no other option. The car shakes violently as the pair drive out into the desert, and eventually breaks down. Jesse reveals that she killed their parents, and that she deserves to live in the town. The demons pull Danny out of the car; Jesse leaves him behind and drives away. She smiles and turns on the radio.
As she drives, one of the floating creatures can be seen in the moonlight overseeing Jesse's plight.
The Way In
- Directed by Radio Silence
- Written by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
Jem (Hassie Harrison) exits the bathroom at Freez'n Over and sees Jesse walk back to the secret door. Jem notices her and then meets her parents, Cait and Daryl (Kate Beahan and Gerald Downey), to finish their food. Jem is going to college and this is their last weekend together before she leaves. As they leave Freez'n Over someone in the parking lot watches them get into their car and drive to their vacation house. They are about to have dinner when three masked men break into their vacation house. Daryl and Cait are caught while Jem hides. Daryl realizes that he knows who the men are and what they want, and begs them to spare his family. One of the men whispers to Cait what Daryl did and she is astonished at her husband's secret. The same man then says "eye for an eye" and kills her in front of her husband. Jem then attacks one of the men with a knife. Surprisingly, the other two tell her to leave. She runs away and they kill Daryl. As he is dying, the man in the mask holds up the photograph of Katherine that Mitch was looking at in The Way Out to be the last thing he ever sees. After Daryl is dead, they remove their masks and they are recognizable as Mitch and Jack. As they are leaving, Jem returns and fights back. She injures them badly but when she’s about to escape, Mitch accidentally kills her. The men feel guilty because they went too far, but it's too late. Outside, the ground opens up as the enigmatic floating creatures from below come through the dead bodies. The men try to escape but are dragged down by the tentacles from beneath the Earth. As the ground behind them continues to crumble, Mitch and Jack drive away.
- Chad Villella as Mitch
- Matt Bettinelli-Olpin as Jack
- Fabianne Therese as Sadie
- Hannah Marks as Ava
- Nathalie Love as Kim
- Kate Beahan as Cait
- Susan Burke as Betty
- Tyler Tuione as Warren
- Gerald Downey as Daryl
- Larry Fessenden as The D.J
- Dana Gould as Raymond Kensington
- Hassie Harrison as Jem
- Davey Johnson as Dale
- Tipper Newton as Jesse
- Maria Olsen as Sandy
- Kristina Pesic as Sutter
- Matt Peters as Al
- David Yow as Danny
The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 16, 2015. Shortly after, The Orchard acquired distribution rights to the film. The film went onto screen at the AFI Fest, Fantastic Fest, and the Sitges Film Festival,
Southbound holds an 81% approval score on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 47 reviews and an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's consensus states: "Southbound doesn't entirely avoid the jarring shifts common to anthology films, but thanks to some thrilling twists and turns, this horror road movie is a surprisingly smooth ride." Metacritic reports a 58 out of 100 rating based on 11 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The New York Times' Neil Genzlinger gave the film a positive review and wrote "Its five segments do what they're supposed to do—unsettle you—but as a bonus, they also leave you wanting more. These are fragments more than complete stories, and the incompleteness is its own kind of creepiness. The filmmakers aren't after tidy tales, neatly connected and concluded. They know that the human mind finds loose ends unnerving." Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times, who wrote that "It's one of the smartest and scariest movies in recent memory" and Rolling Stone's David Ehrlich wrote that the movie was "Like episodes of Twilight Zone that a baked Rod Serling might have written after watching Carnival of Souls, these chapters are eerie to the extreme, and seedy enough to make you feel like you're watching something you were never meant to see. It gets under your skin because it knows there's nothing scarier than realizing that—no matter how far you drive—the evil in your rearview mirror is always closer than it appears."
Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review: "The vignettes are cleverly interwoven by having situations or characters bleeding over from one to the next, and despite the multiple helmers and scripters involved the film boasts a strong stylistic consistency. Featuring fine performances by its ensemble...Southbound should well please genre fans nostalgic for the likes of Tales From the Crypt and Creepshow." Nicolas Rapold of Film Comment wrote, "This anthology of five horror tales is the rare group effort without a dud, as it cruises through variations on the genre with style and confidence." Todd Brown, founder and editor of Twitch Film, described the film as the "Twilight Zone for the indie horror generation."
The film was included on numerous Best Horror Films of 2016 lists including Rolling Stone's "10 Best Horror Movies of 2016", Buzzfeed's "The 19 Best Horror Films Of 2016" and the Thrillist's "Best Horror Movies of 2016: The Year's Scariest Films."
Easter Eggs & Hidden Meanings
There are numerous allusions to the film's alternate meanings hidden throughout the segments, most of the popular theories suggest that the main characters in the film are all trapped in Purgatory where they are forced to endlessly pay for the sins they committed while living.
These allusions and easter eggs include the clearly visible bullet wound on Mitch; the blood splatter on the motel wall; bullet holes that mysteriously appear after Mitch becomes trapped in the motel, implying a connection between the room and bullet wound's scar on Mitch; the implication that the ancillary characters have all participated in the situations before; the same dispatch voice heard every time a character calls 911; the inference that Danny has transcended the physical world to find his sister; the use of Carnival of Souls (the films share similar themes and storylines); the clerk at the truck stop is named "Sutter" which is an allusion to "Sutter Kane" from John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, another film with similar themes; mirrored dialogue, scenes and images throughout; the creatures being visible in each story; elements of the production design that include the word "fear" visible in the magazine Sutter is reading; the flyer for The White Tights in the Jailbreak segment, Jack's "Only God Can Judge Me" tattoo, and the name of the bar that Danny breaks into: "The Trap".
Additionally, The Way Out and The Way In have numerous connective visual and audible easter eggs throughout to establish the narrative and physical connection between stories that create the film's never-ending loop as well as point towards the film's hidden meanings. These include:
- The truck from The Way Out is visible in the "Freez'n Over" parking lot at the beginning of The Way In.
- The house is the same in both The Way Out and The Way In and many of the same shots are used, including of the decorative lights outside (when Mitch enters in The Way Out and when the masked man enters in The Way In) and when Jem walks down the same hallway where Mitch gets trapped.
- In The Way Out, the creatures stalk Mitch and Jack in exactly the same fashion that Mitch and Jack stalk the family in The Way In, first from afar before closing in and again, similar shots are used in both.
- Jack is grabbed by the creature in the bathroom with a T-shirt, which is what he used to kill Cait.
- The shaking in Roy's Cafe is the sound made when the ground opens up in The Way In, implying that these are the creatures below the diner.
- When Jack is killed by the creature, he dies in much the same way as Cait did when he suffocated her.
- The knocks that lure Mitch into the motel room in The Way Out are the same pattern as the knocks from outside the house in The Way In.
- The motel room that Mitch enters is room 6255 in The Way Out, the same as the house's address in The Way In.
- The mask that Mitch wears in The Way In is visible on the table in the last shot of The Way Out, and it is what he was looking at when he first hears his daughter giggle.
- The songs "Don't Let the Party End" and "Goodbye, Goodbye" are used in both though different parts of the songs are played.
- The character's are named after members of The Pogues, one of the band's most well-known songs is titled "If I Should Fall from Grace with God."
- The DJ's voice-over (Larry Fessenden) is in both segments however the ending version has slightly different dialogue implying that the loop is not the same every time and that the characters have the option of making better choices with the possibility that they may be allowed to escape should they cease to make the same wrong choices time and time again.
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