Southbound offers a fine ride into hell

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      Starring Fabianne Therese. Rated 18A.

      Writer-director David Bruckner was responsible for the best segment in 2012’s otherwise iffy horror anthology V/H/S, in which a group of fratty meatheads invite a winged succubus to an amateur porn shoot (whoops!). He comes up trumps again with his contribution to Southbound.

      In “The Accident”, a man (Mather Zickel) is coached by phone through life-saving surgery after delivering a mangled car accident victim to a seemingly abandoned hospital. Great stuff, but unlike V/H/S, Bruckner's awesomely nasty little number sits inside a team-assembled effort that maintains its impressive quality right across the board.

      The framing device begins with Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Chad Villella (of the four-member filmmaking collective Radio Silence, who also direct) hauling into a desert truck stop covered in blood and pursued by skeletal sky-demons. Carnival of Souls is playing on the diner’s TV, which is never a good sign.

      Their tale resolves later, arriving through a slick storytelling loop that connects everything via a long, empty highway stretching through the Mojave. In all cases, damnation is the real destination. For musician Sadie (Starry Eyes’ Fabianne Therese), Hell is other people; namely the creepily conformist couple who come to the rescue when her band ends up in the arse-end of nowhere with a flat tire. For Danny (played with amusing gusto by Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow), it’s realizing that some folk actually don’t want to be rescued from a hardcore redneck interzone populated by naked ghouls.

      From Deliverance to Hills Have Eyes, the American south has provided a reliably unsettling canvas for our cinematic screamtime. Southbound ramps it up with a lot of panicky, US-brand xenophobia and—I’m assuming, given the film's general sense of despair—the terror that comes from realizing things were actually better in the Nixon era.

      Southbound plays at the Vancity Theatre, starting Friday (February 19)