From some of the same makers as the horror omnibus trilogy "V/H/S," the clever "Twilight Zone"-esque indie-horror anthology film, "Southbound," presents a quintet of tales, each centered around people on the run from someone or something they'd like nothing more than to put squarely in their rearview mirror. Set within the same stretch of lonely desert highway, each story follows some poor lost soul on a road to nowhere, all united by one common trait: guilt.
"Southbound" ditches the typical connective framing device that slows the pace of many films of its type; here each story flows seamlessly into the next. They're all linked by a pulsing, retro synth score, and periodically, a Wolfman Jack-like DJ, voiced by horror icon Larry Fessenden, chimes in to offer some existential commentary. As with any anthology, some stories are better than others, and the standouts include "Siren," from writer-director Roxanne Benjamin, about a female rock trio left stranded when their Volkswagen van gets a flat in the middle of nowhere. They hitch a ride with an eerily pleasant couple, who naturally turn out to be part of a satanic cult. Before their ordeal comes to an end, the girls are forced to confront a past tragedy involving their missing fourth member.
From there we segue into the film's highpoint with David Bruckner's "The Accident," in which a momentarily distracted driver accidentally hits and severely injures a pedestrian (to put it mildly).
Attempting to make things right, the driver follows the instructions of a concerned 911 operator and EMT dispatcher who attempt to guide him through some hasty surgery to hopefully save the victim's life. The goriest of all the film's segments, "The Accident" walks the devilishly entertaining line between gross-out effects and slapstick humor.
The least successful story in the collection is "Jailbreak," from director Patrick Horvath, which finds a man on the hunt for his long-lost sister. But when he finally locates her, she's less than happy to see him. "Jailbreak" dabbles in some intriguing supernatural elements, though in the end it never quite comes together.
Directing team Radio Silence open and close the film, with their first tale following two bloodied criminals attempting to escape demonic floating wraiths out to make the pair pay for their transgressions. The final tale involves a home invasion, with a family staying at a roadside motel suddenly under siege from a band of very persistent masked intruders.
Sprinkled with the same twisted morality that powered some of the best "Tales From the Crypt" stories, "Southbound" is a fiendishly fun ride while it lasts.
City spoke with "Ex Machina" director Alex Garland about moving into the director's chair.