Southbound (2015); Belching Beaver Brewing Hop Highway IPA

First a little fear…

Southbound (2015); Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath & Radio Silence

Although there has been a spade of them made over the last several years, horror anthology movies are nothing new.  In fact things really kicked off for this genre back in the early 60s with greats like Black Sabbath, Twice-Told Tales and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.  Every few years all the way through the late 1990s, horror fans could expect a new entry into this genre and style of film making.  Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, Trick ‘R Treat and Cat’s Eye are among those films that have kept the anthology alive and kicking.  Lately however, there have been some entries that are…shall we say…not any good.  At all.  Gone is the finesse of weaving the tales together or even binding them with more than a loose subject matter or title.  Instead, we find haphazardly thrown together pieces from, it would seem, just about anyone willing to submit one.  The anthology has recently been showing signs of wear; it has been reduced to its simplest parts.

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But then comes SouthboundSouthbound snuck right up on me.  I had heard nothing about this film (at least nothing that stuck apparently) until just a few weeks ago.  Honestly, when I heard that it was an anthology I almost dismissed it outright; snobbish I know, but I’ve been burned by this latest rash of rapid sequel inducing anthology wannabes enough to be jaded.  And believe me, Southbound isn’t the best picture of the year…but it is a breath of fresh air into a genre that many are attempting to do right but in which few are finding the mark.

Starting with the aforementioned tale weaving, Southbound takes place over one evening (or does it?) and tells the tales of several different groups along the same desolate stretch of highway(more desolate than you might imagine!).  The story will take us from one group to the next, yet comes full circle in a surprising and mostly unexpected way by the end of the whole thing (but is it really the end?).  Each story is begun right on the heels of the events of the previous one, and is in some way impacted directly by it.

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Even this is thrown on its heels by the fact that the opening tale, “The Way Out”, starts right in the damn middle of itself.  Mitch and Jack are running from something…something they have done.  We don’t know what that might be, but it sure as hell wasn’t any good.  We know this because they are wounded, covered in blood which seems to be both their own and someone else’s, and because they are being stalked by some form of deathly apparitions which follow their flight down a dusty highway.  Trying to take refuge in the only place they can, a run-down gas station and motel in the middle of nowhere, they find that there is no help there…and maybe no escape either.

“Siren” follows The White Tights, a female rock band on a road trip to their next gig.  As much as they are heading toward their next show, they are running from the memory of their close friend Alex who has died recently.  While we may not know what exactly happened to Alex in the recent past, we are sure that there is more than what is being said between the members of this group.  When their ride breaks down, they are picked up by an odd family of good Samaritans who also seem to have some dark secrets.  More than that, however, they seem to know a little something about Alex as well…

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Things are pretty self-explanatory with “The Accident” when Lucas gets too involved in his phone call and hits a young girl trying to wave him down for help.  Surprisingly, he does the right thing and attempts to get her to the next town for help.  When he arrives, he finds that there is apparently no one around and it will be up to him, while being talked through it by emergency dispatchers on the phone, to save the gravely wounded victim.

In “Jailbreak” we meet Danny, a guy who just wants to find his sister; and find her he does.  Only she isn’t too keen on leaving with him.  Seems she has made new friends here in town; a town with a sinister secret.  She isn’t looking to be rescued.  In fact, she made the decision to come here on purpose…a decision made because of her own sinister secret.  Danny has gotten himself in over his head by coming here, and it is only now that we start to get a glimpse of where “here” really is.

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It is only fitting that an anthology which starts with a story called “The Way Out” would end with a story called “The Way In”!  Three men invade a home and take a family of three hostage.  They are men on a mission of revenge; revenge for something that dear old dad has done.  Whatever it is, when mom finds out she loses her mind in anguish, but doesn’t suffer long as both she and her husband are killed.  The men, satisfied with their vengeance, turn the daughter loose.  But it seems she has other plans entirely and comes back for a little revenge of her own.

The circle of stories comes to a close.  But we aren’t at the end of anything.  Much like those in our story, we are just now realizing where this highway leads…and this highway has no plans of letting us exit.  The stories feel solidly crafted and the acting ranges from obnoxious to great (David Yow of the bands Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard was a standout addition).  But the way that this anthology truly links together not only the various tales it tells, but also the very beginning and ending of the film itself, was truly a lot of fun to experience.

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There is something in these tales for everyone.  Some great gore, some supernatural and religious elements, some nitty-gritty psychological horror and of course some scary apparition thingies.  Present in every story, these CGI generated creatures started off being very unsettling in the film’s opening moments but began to become a little silly the longer we see them and the more they interact.  The CGI itself was simply sub-par (probably what could be afforded) and becomes a bit distracting, but this is really one of my only complaints with Southbound.

The fact that each of these tales is written and directed by different people makes each tale feel quite a bit different and breaks any sense of a singular film plot.  But, the way in which each filmmaker worked with those of the stories just before and after is impressive.  If you just want a bunch of little vignettes thrown together because you only have to follow some plot 15 minutes at a time, you probably didn’t read this far.  If you want something a little more cerebral and something that will reward you for paying attention all the way through, then Southbound is the direction you are going to want to head.

…then a little beer!

belchingbeaverhophighway

Belching Beaver Brewery Hop Highway IPA (7.3% ABV) – Vista, CA

There are well over 100 craft breweries in the San Diego, California area currently, and a damn good number of those are producing some seriously amazing beers.  Standing out amongst a crowd like that isn’t easy; even more difficult is having immediate skyrocketing success.  Making it look easy though?  Guess you’d have to ask Belching Beaver Brewing.

Troy Smith left Coronado Brewing to come on board with owner Tom Vogel and get Belching Beaver off the ground in 2012 and things have really taken off for these guys in that short amount of time.  Starting with a plan to get distribution into Northern California and the opening of a second location, Belching Beaver now has two brewing facilities, four tasting rooms, a tavern and distribution into five West Coast states including Hawaii.  While it takes a good deal of business savvy and a ton of hard work to reach these levels of success in such a short time, it also takes some solid beers.

One such brew, and my choice to pair with Southbound‘s desolate and dangerous stretch of roadway , is Belching Beaver’s Hop Highway.  This beer pours a very hazy dark gold with a rather voluptuous off-white to cream color head that leaves behind a nice lacing.  First impressions on the nose are of citrus, tropicals and tangy pineapple, with nothing more than a subtle resinous hint.  Complimented by sweet malts, you are simply not expecting the complex hop character of your first taste; more than likely due to the Galaxy hop’s amazing aromatic qualities.

The flavor is bold with hop profile, and while the lemon zest and citrus makes a showing, they really aren’t the stars of the show.  The use of Falconer’s Flight and Southern Cross hops here is really quite smart as the former tends to build large “hop characteristics” without leaning too far in any one direction and the latter is impactful with huge alpha acids and spiciness.  What you wind up with is a little pine, a little earthiness, a little citrus and a light floral nature.  This hop usage doesn’t wind up leading to a striking IPA that blows the mind…what you get is a wonderful IPA that gives you all of your favorite characteristics in one package that you can return to over and over.  All of this is softened with rich royal jelly sweetness from the malt, providing an IPA that drinks sessionable while packing a 7.3% ABV punch.

This beer took a Silver in the World Beer Championships, but this notoriety didn’t go to its head.  It seems so often that every IPA needs to break new ground, hit new bittering highs, blow minds with fruit additions or use a mind warping array of grain inclusions.  But I find it is truly more impressive to find those IPAs that simply try to be great beers that deserve a repeat performance in your glass.  Belching Beaver’s Hop Highway is just such a beer, and it will be back in my glass in no time.

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