Exclusive: David Bruckner Talks Southbound, Anthologies, and More!


Five interlocking tales of terror follow the fates of a group of bone-weary travelers who confront their worst nightmares and darkest secrets in Southbound (review), a film which has been creating quite a bit of buzz since its festival run. Now that it’s poised for release, we got the chance to catch up with one of the segment directors, David Bruckner, during the press tour. Here’s what he had to say about his story, “The Accident,” and working on the anthology as a whole.

Dread Central: I personally loved your segment, “The Accident,” the most! It was so cringe-inducing (car collisions and medical procedures always seem to be sure-fire white-knucklers), I’d love to know what your inspiration was for the screenplay, and did it play out as you expected when you were shooting?

David Bruckner: I’m really drawn to dream logic in movies. Although a nightmare can be very divorced from reality, your mind has a way of just rolling with it, and what comes about can be a real reflection of what’s going on just under the surface. We were exploring themes of regret and remorse across the entire anthology, and I think I just stumbled upon distracted driving as a common anxiety. I think most of us, at one moment or another, have been total assholes with our phones; and there’s something in this disconnect between such a simple and mundane action (looking away from the road for a second), and suddenly people’s bodies are twisted in metal. It’s incomprehensible. I wanted to do something of a nightmare PSA, like if you hurt someone because you weren’t paying attention, this is the dream you would keep having. Where over and over again into eternity, you play this situation out, every single time trying to undo what you’ve done.

I think because of the technical challenges in this piece (the accident, the hospital, the surgery), we had to have it very carefully planned from start to finish. I think more than my other movies, this one is a very close to the script throughout.

David Bruckner

DC: We’ve interviewed lots and lots of directors of horror anthologies over the years, but the subject never gets old because the processes are always different. It seems in most cases the directors never read the other people’s screenplays or collaborate in any way with their fellow directors. They work in vacuums. (ABC’s of Death, Tales of Halloween, etc.) But since your story, more than any of the others, dovetails with the one before it – “Siren” – I’m wondering if you and the other director did anything together while filming?

DB: We were all very vocal throughout the writing process. Pretty early on, we each sketched our separate treatments and then played with where those pieces might fit into the overall movie. We wanted to avoid the anthology pitfall of having consecutive Act 1’s from section to section and to instead use the stories to shape something similar to a three-act structure. So both the order of the shorts, as well as how they bled into one another, was something we collaborated on a great deal.

“Siren” felt like a necessary Act 1 experience, a quiet slow burn that builds to something extremely intense. And the concept for “The Accident” partially came about as a way to keep that momentum going and catapult us into the later tales of the movie. Once [“Siren” director] Roxanne [Benjamin] and I agreed upon how the two shorts would work together, we played with the stories until that transition point really serviced both narratives.

Once on set, we were both there to oversee the shots that joined the narratives to make sure everybody was getting what they needed. I think all the directors did that between all the connected sections.

DC: The same (fantastic) actress, Fabianne Therese, is in Roxanne’s segment and yours – I’ve seen some of her other work and am so impressed. Please give us a little insight as to what she is like to work with, and what was one of the most challenging scenes she had to play?

DB: Fabi was so committed throughout. In addition to leading the “Siren” story, she made a huge transition with “The Accident” that required long hours and a ton of physicality. In the days leading up, we work-shopped the physicality of her injuries as well as her interactions with several complicated special effects builds. On the day, we were tight on time and money and needed to cover her sequences over and over from several separate vantage points. To represent that kind of trauma, for such a prolonged sequence, had to be extremely physically and emotionally demanding; but Fabi was “on” the entire time, start to finish. She found some incredible moments of awareness amidst all the chaos.

DC: Mather Zickel is mainly known for his comedy roles, and he brings some of that amazing sense of timing into horror… so, same question: Please give us a little insight as to what he is like to work with, and what was one of the most challenging scenes he had to play (if you can pick just one!)?

DB: Mather is a force! He asked a lot of tough questions of the narrative, but once he grabbed ahold of the thing, he really carried the whole piece on his shoulders. He has a incredible ability to keep the character spinning so many plates, constantly reacting to the changing situation in front of him as well as the voices in his ears, all while maintaining the physicality of the piece! It’s no easy feat.

One of the more difficult scenes, for both Mather and Fabi, involved Lucas carrying her through the hospital while she actively convulsed. Again, Mather is actively running dialogue with the 911 operator while discovering this haunted hospital, kicking open doors, yelling down hallways, and managing to wrestle a dying woman in his arms. We shot a ton of coverage for the extended sequence. Mather’s doing it for real and conveying the complexities of the character’s experience beat by beat. I think the exhaustion, panic, and helplessness all shows up on screen.

DC: For those who love anthology films, can you give horror fans a rundown of what to expect with Southbound?

DB: Southbound is a different kind of anthology experience for sure. Not only can you get lost in each individual nightmare, but the whole, over-arching view of the stories and the haunted highway that connects them has its own mythology, and I think that lingers. Also, I would warn folks that this is midnight movie, and it’s not afraid to get weird.

Watch Southbound in select regional theaters on February 12th, 13th, 19th, and 26th (New York and Los Angeles on February 5th and VOD on February 9th).

Directors of the individual segments are Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Roxanne Benjamin, and Patrick Horvath. Kate Beahan, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Susan Burke, Zoe Cooper, Gerald Downey, Karla Droege, Larry Fessenden, Dana Gould, Hassie Harrison, Davey Johnson, Nathalie Love, Hannah Marks, Tipper Newton, Maria Olsen, Kristina Pesic, Matt Peters, Anessa Ramsey, Fabianne Therese, Tyler Tuione, Chad Villella, Justin Welborn, David Yow, and Mather Zickel star.

Weary travelers confront their worst nightmares — and darkest secrets — over one long night on a desolate stretch of desert highway in this spooky anthology that merges five tales of death and mayhem on the open road.

Mitch and Jack are on the run from their past when they turn up, blood-splattered, at a lonely roadside diner; an all-girl rock group called Siren must rely on the kindness of strangers when their tour van breaks down at the side of the road; a harried businessman is desperate for help from an unusual 9-1-1 operator in the aftermath of a car accident; a frantic gunman bursts into a bar demanding to know the whereabouts of a girl in a photograph; all hell breaks loose when masked men interrupt a family vacation.

These interlocking tales of terror and remorse are rooted firmly in the logic of “Twilight Zone” and EC Comics morality plays, each one winding seamlessly into the next. The result is original, cohesive, and consistently fun — a Möbius strip of ghoulish frights on an endless road.




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