It’s no surprise that the directors of the two strongest segments in V/H/S also provide the two strongest segments in Southbound, a new horror anthology. A collective of filmmakers who call themselves Radio Silence wrote, directed, and did the visual effects for the Halloween-party-gone-wrong effects-heavy rollercoaster finale of V/H/S. Their segment in Southbound, called The Way Out & The Way In, is also effects-heavy. It features a solid set of actors and unique creature design. It gives Southbound its structure and payoff.
But the highlight of Southbound is smack dab in the middle. David Bruckner’s segment, The Accident, consists entirely of the delightful Mather Zickel on the phone, splattered with gore and unsure what to do. It’s a one-man show about about the horror of helplessness in the face of grievous injury. It begins as a typical scenario that would fit snugly into any horror anthology. A driver on a remote road hits someone, panics, and flees the scene. Then he’s haunted and somehow punished. But Bruckner immediately swerves. Zickel, playing the driver, doesn’t flee. He tries desperately to do the right thing. He gives in to the calm guidance and soothing reassurance of the 911 dispatcher at the other end of the line. Or is it in his head? Is this authority, or is it conscience? Is this the Milgram experiment or Psycho?
In addition to gore, The Accident is dripping with the same delicious dark humor as Bruckner’s apocalypse party segment in The Signal (I didn’t care much for Signal co-director Jacob Gentry’s Synchronicity, recently released for VOD, but I was thrilled to see three of the actors from that apocalypse party back together again). Bruckner’s segment in V/H/S, Amateur Night, was also far and away better than the rest of that anthology, for its premise, execution, social relevance, and hugely gratifying payoff. With calling cards like these, I can’t comprehend why Bruckner, probably the most unsung horror director working today, has been unable to get a feature film going in Hollywood. That’s the real horror of Southbound.