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Film / Southbound

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Southbound is a 2015 American horror anthology film directed by Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, and Patrick Horvath.

The film consists of five interlocking stories following the fates of several weary travellers who confront their worst nightmares and darkest secrets on a desolate stretch of desert highway.

  • The Way Out (directed by Radio Silence): Two men, Mitch and Jack, are driving down the highway, covered in blood from an unknown-as-yet-to-the-audience incident, and pursued by bizarre winged creatures. They stop at a gas station to clean up, which is when things get really bizarre.
  • Siren (directed by Roxanne Benjamin): Sadie, Ava, and Kim, three members of a band called The White Tights are travelling down the highway when one of the tyres on their van bursts. They are soon picked up by Betty and Dale, a friendly if somewhat eccentric couple, and taken to their home until they can get their van repaired - but strange things start happening soon after they arrive.
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  • The Accident (directed by David Bruckner): Lucas is distracted by his phone while driving, resulting in him hitting someone and causing horrific injuries. He tries desperately to save her life while guided by a 911 dispatcher, a certified EMT, and a surgeon over his phone.
  • Jailbreak (directed by Patrick Horvath): A shotgun-wielding man named Danny holds up a run-down bar, demanding to know the location of his missing sister Jesse.
  • The Way In (directed by Radio Silence): A family, consisting of Daryl, Cait and their daughter Jem, are having a last weekend together before Jem leaves for college. Shortly after booking into their vacation home, however, they are menaced by a trio of masked men.

There are unmarked spoilers ahead, be warned.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: The events of "The Accident" primarily occur in a very creepy one.
  • Affably Evil: Betty, Dale and the Kensingtons from "Siren". They're perfectly cheerful and friendly, but also turn out to be brainwashing cultists.
  • Agony of the Feet: In "Siren", Sadie gets one of her feet caught in a Bear Trap, and spends the rest of the segment limping after escaping from it.
  • Alien Geometries: In "The Way Out", Jack and Mitch pass by the exact same gas station multiple times while trying to escape. Later, Jack enters a motel room only to eventually find himself in an entirely different room - which the audience will see with more context later on - and ends up stuck in an infinitely looping hallway.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The loop starts over again, however, the minor change in voiceover from the DJ (as well as many of the things he says throughout the film) suggests that the characters may one day be able to escape if they make different choices.
  • Ambiguous Situation: At the end of "The Accident", it isn't made clear if Lucas was able to escape purgatory.
  • An Aesop: From "The Accident": driving while distracted by one's phone is a phenomenally stupid idea.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Danny blows off Warren's hand with his shotgun after the latter claws his back open.
  • And I Must Scream: Sadie spends much of "The Accident" critically injured, choking on her own blood, unable to move or speak.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Danny enters a bar he knows to be full of demonic beings, brandishing a shotgun, in order to find his missing sister. Unfortunately for him, he didn't anticipate that she wants to stay in purgatory.
  • Body Horror: The Reapers are floating, emaciated creatures with no legs, long flowing tendrils, and a vertical slit down their featureless faces and torsos which occasionally opens up to show a skeleton inside. They also emerge from the corpses of Jem and her parents.
    • Sadie's injuries after being hit by a car are nothing short of horrifying, the most squick-worthy being her broken knee causing her leg to bend the other way. It later almost detaches entirely.
  • Book-Ends: The first and last segments of the film open and close with the same scenes, with mild differences (including the voiceover), indicating that each loop is different and could possibly change more drastically if the characters make different choices. Additionally, both segments use the same music and sound cues.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Danny finishes off Al, complete with a healthy dosage of Your Head Asplode.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The fates of Ava and Kim.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Bear Trap in "Siren".
  • Crapsack World: The various conflicts are driven by the Reapers, a Satanic-esque cult, mysterious disembodied voices, demonic humanoids, lost spirits, and Malevolent Masked Men. That's not even getting into the Alien Geometries and Cosmic Horror Story elements. Oh, and it turns out that the entire movie is set in some kind of purgatory.
  • Creepy Twins: The Kensington twins from "Siren" are very unsettling from the moment they're introduced and turn out to be cultists.
  • Daylight Horror: Aside from the very, very beginning, "The Way Out" takes place entirely in the bright, sunny daytime.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Almost every segment features this, with the possible exception being "The Accident".
  • Eldritch Location: The setting of the entire film, purgatory.
  • Facial Horror: Jack getting his mouth torn apart by a Reaper.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Being stuck in an endless loop, in purgatory, definitely qualifies. Due to an apparent lack of Ripple Effect-Proof Memory, however, the characters remain unaware that they're stuck.
  • Foreshadowing / Futureshadowing: All over the place. Every segment contains clues to what's really going on that may not become clear until the end.
    • One of the Reapers attacks Jack in the gas station bathroom by yanking him backwards by his shirt; Jack is later gruesomely killed by one of the Reapers shoving its hand into his mouth and tearing his face apart. Both of these events mirror the way Jack killed Cait.
    • The motel room that Mitch enters suddenly turns into an entirely different location. The location being the vacation home seen in "The Way In".
    • The truck that Mitch and Jack travel in is visible outside the Freez'n Over in "The Way In".
    • A rubber mask can be briefly seen on a table at the end of "The Way Out". It's the same mask that Mitch wears in "The Way In".
    • The voice of the 911 dispatcher in "The Accident" is the exact same one as heard in "The Way In".
    • It is noted in the director and cast commentary that the voiceovers by the DJ, particularly the beginning one, effectively tell the plot of the entire movie if you pay attention.
    • The Reapers' stalking of on Mitch and Jack in "The Way Out" mirror the masked men's stalking of the family in "The Way In". Jack and Mitch are two of the masked men.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the end of "The Way Out", a mask can be seen lying on a table, foreshadowing later events. In the same shot, a Reaper can be briefly seen to the right, overseeing Mitch's punishment.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Their groins are censored, but the Lost Souls near the end of "Jailbreak" are completely nude.
  • Gorn: Jack's death is particularly gruesome - a Reaper shoves its hand into his mouth, completely ripping his mouth apart.
    • In "The Accident", Sadie's compound fracture on her knee is so bad that her leg actually starts to fall off.
    • In "Jailbreak", Danny blows Al's head apart with his shotgun, splattering blood all over the room (including two of the patrons).
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: A couple of memorable examples occur in "The Accident". When Lucas has to hold Sadie's throat open to insert the breathing tube, we get a few lovely shots of the inside of her throat. Later, he is instructed to manually compress her lung, resulting in shots shown from inside her chest as he does just that.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The whole film is set throughout one neverending, looping day in purgatory.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Mitch and Jack brutally murder Cait, Daryl and finally Jem in revenge for... something Daryl did to Mitch's daughter.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted - it is strongly implied that Mitch's daughter is dead and was possibly killed by Daryl.
  • Jump Scare: After arguing with Mitch (who wishes to stay instead of fleeing), Jack decides to leave him and gets back into the truck. Cue a Reaper suddenly appearing right by the driver's side and dragging him out of the vehicle.
  • Karmic Death: On a rewatch, it becomes apparent that Jack's fate is this. Compare the way he dies to the way he kills Cait.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The antagonists of "The Way In". Two of them are revealed to be Mitch and Jack.
  • Mr. Exposition: If one pays attention, it turns out that the DJ is this.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mitch is horrified with himself after killing Jem.
  • Noodle Incident: It's never entirely made clear why the masked men are targeting Daryl, only that it has something to do with Mitch's daughter. Given what happens, it's safe to assume that Daryl killed her, whether it was deliberate or an accident is left open.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In full effect throughout each segment. The audience is often not given a huge amount of context for the strange incidents that occur, making the whole film feel more unsettling.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: The aptly-named Reapers have a very surreal, Grim Reaper-esque look to them and seem to exist to oversee and dish out punishments.
  • Pet the Dog: The masked men actually let Jem go, to Daryl's relief. Unfortunately, she returns to try and take them down. It ends badly for her.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: The entire film is set in a purgatory that torments and punishes the people within it, forcing them to confront their demons.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: Occurs in a few of the segments (see also Alien Geometries above), but it's pretty prominent in "Jailbreak": Al has an eye tattooed on the back of his hand that actually blinks when he holds it up over his eye, and can use it to see a strange dimension in negative hues (dubbed the Negative Zone by the filmmakers), populated by Lost Souls. He can also use it to see an otherwise invisible door to the tattoo parlour. Danny later ends up trapped in the Negative Zone when the Lost Souls take him.
  • Religion of Evil: The cultists in "Siren", who are implied to worship Satan or a similar entity, and end up brainwashing Ava and Kim into their ranks.
  • The Reveal: The events of the film are taking place in an endless looping day within purgatory.
  • Rewatch Bonus: There's a lot of symbolism and imagery that makes a lot more sense upon a second viewing.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Jesse turns out to be one of these. She killed her parents as a child, and confesses to Danny that it wasn't an accident.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: At a distance, the Reapers appear like this.
  • The Un-Reveal: Shortly before killing her, one of the masked men reveals to Cait just what her husband's crime is... except he says it in a muffled whisper far too low for the audience to hear, and the last part of the whisper was even reversed, just to make it even more indecipherable.
  • The Voice: The DJ is only ever heard via the radio show he's presenting (in fact, it seems to be the only show on that particular station - justified, given the setting) and is never shown on screen.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Kim and Ava vomit up Bad Black Barf after eating the meatloaf.
  • Wham Shot: After killing Cait and Daryl, two of the masked men remove their masks. They're Mitch and Jack. However, as discussed in the commentary, the filmmakers didn't intend for this to be a huge "wham" moment, assuming that most people would have figured it out by that point.

Example of: