Southbound (2015) – More Than Just a Horror Movie

Southbound (2015) - The Reapers are a a reoccurring visual throughout the film
5 out of 5 stars

It was quite a journey finding a film as impactful as Southbound (2015). As a kid, I used to browse for horror films for hours. I grew up watching classics like The Ring (2002), Scream (2022), Saw (2004), From a young age, and some people call this troubled, I was obsessed with horror movies. Yet, something was missing. There were some films that just never did it for me (don’t shoot me here) like Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) even films like The Shining (1980). I never knew what was missing, but it was always the hidden gems that did it for me. And one day I struck gold.

Southbound is horror anthology film composed of multiple connected episodes. As opposed to more loosely connected anthologies like All Hallows Eve (2013), Southbound’s connective tissue runs much deeper. Southbound is broken into the following four episodes:

  • The Way Out and the Way In – Radio Silence
  • Siren – Roxanne Benjamin and Susan Burke
  • The Accident – David Bruckner
  • Jailbreak – Patrick Horvath and Dallas Hallam
Southbound (2015) - The Reapers are a a reoccurring visual throughout the film
The Reapers make multiple appearances in each of the stories

Seemingly Mediocre, But…

I first watched Southbound when I was around fourteen/fifteen, flicking through random horror films and stumbling across this horror anthology. A film about sinners running from their pasts down an eerie desert highway, accompanied along the way by some charismatic radio DJ telling them to buck their ideas up and keep moving. The film was never a massive success. It gained credible but altogether mixed reviews. IMDB saw the film as quite average, scoring it 5.9/10, yet Rotten Tomatoes clearly saw something in it, giving it an 81% score. 

The film as people know it, is just an average horror film, enjoyed but otherwise forgotten. But not me. First time I saw it, I loved it. But I didn’t truly understand the film until later inspection. The film does not need to overly explain anything, nor does it try to shove its meanings in your face. It gives its audience little clues, small hints and moves on from its point. It creates a whole world, somewhere southbound: an entirely different realm with entirely different possibilities. Working together, a bunch of directors must have stitched together the whole concept before putting pen to paper. 

Southbound (2015) - Nothing says southbound like a fireside satanic ritual
Nothings says Southbound like a satanic fireside chat

Heading Southbound

(SPOILERS AHEAD) The film puts a whole new light on purgatory horror, creating this ‘South’ (hell) where the characters are stuck in a never ending loop, haunted by their past which chases them at every possible moment. The film strangles you into its eeriness, grittiness, placing you at the bottom of hell along with characters going through their worst nightmares. Every story leads into the next, connects even as far as placing characters together, having them interact. The film places the audience into a setting far stranger than anything that could be imagined.

People staring out into nothingness, saying lines meant only for the dead souls of hell to hear, to traumatize them, to mess with them. As far as I’m aware, some people down in this town aren’t even real, just characters placed to put others in their worst nightmare imaginable. 

A Place for Sinners

In every story, the audience gets a sense of what of what wrongdoings the characters have done. For example, we see a home invasion on a man who has presumably killed a little girl. Not only then does the man suffer but we also see the revenge killers get stuck in this town too, a constant cycle which keeps the whole film flowing and connected. In one story, we see how characters/victims can get out of this loop by doing the right thing.

A man named Lucas, on the road in the middle of nowhere, runs over a woman and instead of leaving her, he tries to save her, taking her to a hospital in the middle of nowhere. Although it didn’t quite go to plan, he gains the ability to leave this purgatory and go home back to his wife, a reward for doing the right thing. As the radio DJ says at the start of the movie, ‘Regret and Remorse, Amends and Atonement.

Southbound (2015) - Impromptu surgery center
The Southbound impromptu surgery center. The doctor is out.

An Underrated Gem

Although the film hasn’t gained the cult following it should have, Southbound has influenced everything I’ve ever written. From short stories to failed novels to poems, Southbound has always been the basis for my plots, the reason I write. I’ve heard of film reviews which talk about horror movies which grab you by the throat, not letting go until the end of the movie or films which will taunt your nightmares and play on your mind. Southbound never lets go. If you watch it, understand it, watch it again, realize the beauty of this film, it’ll stay with you for the rest of your life. 

I urge you wholeheartedly, to give this movie a go. And if you’ve already seen it, didn’t like it, thought it was average then go and watch it again. And again. There’s never been a more unique and inspiring film as Southbound.

Southbound (2015) - More Than Just a Horror Movie - Malevolent Dark
southbound the road is perilous

Director: Brad Miska

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33

Editor's Rating:
5

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