Five interlocking tales of terror follow the fates of a group of weary travellers who confront their worst nightmares – and darkest secrets – over one long night on a desolate stretch of desert highway.
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Different. In a good way. More Twilight Zone than ABC or VHS. The deliberate death of explanation (or logic, for that matter) is a plus. Will be remembered as a minor classic. Let's just don't transform this into a "franchise" please.
The last 3 parts are striking here due to their intensity, but all segments here are bare-bones and underwritten not just in story, yet also in backstory, making the stakes not just in-affecting, but mostly unknown until the end. The five stories are more-or-less laced together creatively, but the thinness also makes them ineffective and/or routine. Southbound would've been better with its rhyme-and-reason upfront.
Despite all the shorts giving the idea of belonging in the same universe in a clear way, I still felt something missing, the connections between characters and stories feel superficial (the last one slightly passed on that). Overall, like many horror anthologies, it's easy entertainment (kinda of) but it just left me unfulfilled.
2-3. Eh. Not especially scary, though the last one did spook me a little (I have a thing about masks). Still there are worse ways to play out a setting as a metaphor for a lost, cyclical state that eventually destroys its inhabitants, one way or another. That being said, I think the mostly oddly 'nice' protagonists are a double-edged creative decision, but this wasn't a waste of my time, either.
Overall is exceedingly well-crafted: the cinematography by various DPs is excellent, whether out on the sun-baked sand or deep in the hospital’s shadowy confines, production designer Jennifer Moller creates atmospherically varied yet thematically united settings and the chapters are further tied together by the eerie score by The Gifted.
So many references from the 60s, 70s and 80s are here. Twilight Zone is the essence, Tales from the Crypt is the body, the girls are final, the score is J. Carpenter-esque. It's a contemporary movie though, written and directed by people who know the meaning of horror is not in what is understandable, but instead in what lies in the unknown. Adam Wingards and Adam Greens have A_LOT to learn with their contemporaries.