Tom Humberstone


horror week - day 4

Southbound (2015)

"Tonight might just be the night you finally outrun those wicked demons once and for all."

Quick summary: Five interweaving short stories set on or around a desert highway which may or may not be some sort of purgatory (but is almost definitely purgatory).

I love a good portmanteau horror anthology despite their tendency to be inconsistent in quality. This one works better than most and benefits from a sort of directorial house-style that doesn't make huge tonal jumps between stories.

From the opening tale, where a run-down diner is playing clips from Carnival of Souls, we're given clues as to where we are and what's happening to the protagonists in each short. There's also a nice cameo from Larry Fessenden as a radio DJ at the start of each story - giving us some on-the-nose philosophical thoughts that happen to relate directly to each tale. He acts as our Cryptkeeper in this Tale from the Crypt or Creepshow.

I found the second and third stories were the most successful: a playful and menacing short by director Roxanne Benjamin that followed a female-fronted punk group getting aid from creepy Rockwellian Satanists, and an excruciating, gory short about a man trying his best to fix a costly mistake. That second one - from director David Bruckner (who did The Signal) - had me squirming in my seat for the duration. Hospital scenes tend to have me on edge at the best of times and Bruckner really turns the knife (so to speak) here.

It's a shlocky, enjoyable watch.

I also watched:

Trick 'R Treat (2007)

"Charlie Brown's an asshole!"

Quick summary: Four short stories set on the same night - Halloween.

A very glossy horror film which clearly had a decent budget - possibly due to being produced by Bryan Singer (which may also explain the presence of Anna Paquin and Brian Cox).

Rather than have individual directors for each short, this was directed in its entirety by Michael Dougherty who went on to do Krampus.

It's a decent enough horror anthology. Brainless enough that it'll be enjoyable to watch with friends on Halloween. The narrative is connected by a mini Jack-o'-lantern headed "Spirit of Halloween" and in some ways the film seems to be commenting on the crass commercialisation of the holiday. And yet a lot of the scares and a lot of the stories feel exploitative and cheap so it seems to be trying to have it's pumpkin-spiced cake and eat it too. The Anna Paquin tale in particular, seems to be aiming for a female empowerment twist ending while also having lots of gratuitous nudity. It's absurdly misjudged.

In a way it's like a Christmas feel-good movie, with the final story focusing on the Scrooge-like Brian Cox character being hounded by the 'lil Halloween chap (with some overt nods to the Evil Dead 2). But we're far from the damning, wry satire of Gremlins. Essentially, as with Krampus, this movie can't decide if it wants to make a satirical comment about the holiday season, go for the darkness, or just give in to the easy genre conventions that will satisfy a mainstream audience. In the end, it goes for something in the middle and ends up feeling unsatisfying.

Tonight: Creature feature night with The Roost (2005) and When Animals Dream (2014).

Check out the archive of the horror week here.