"Southern Hospitality" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Approbation Comics
Written by B. Alex Thompson
Illustrated by Kevin Richardson
Colored by Russell Vincent Yu
2014, 91 Pages
What is it about the south that makes for such a great setting for horror stories? From Deliverance to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to Hatchet, there's something entertaining and terrifying about a Yankee getting lost in the boonies and hunted down by a local yokel. Southern Hospitality plays a bit with that trope, adding its own unique spin to it.
Nate and Todd are on their way to Florida for a conference. They pick up three college co-eds at a gas station in Alabama. They're all creeped out by the strange folk behind the counter, but leave them in the rear view mirror. After a night of debauchery, they start dropping one by one as a masked giant of a man stalks them with a sickle in hand.
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On the surface, Southern Hospitality sounds like a generic slasher flick. While it does check off all of those boxes, it has a couple of unexpected twists that keep it interesting. I'm obviously not going to spoil those here, but suffice it to say, it raises it above a basic gorefest and adds more to the sub-genre.
This is somewhat counterbalanced by the characters who fill various stereotypical roles of horror movie victims. Nate is a horndog. Todd is a dork. Irene is a nerd. None of them receive much in the way of character development. We're plopped into their lives like this is any other day. Their conversations are normal, albeit a bit more sexualized. This makes them more cannon fodder than relatable.
The pacing in Southern Hospitality is a bit off. After a brief introductory scene showing the dangers of this sleepy Alabama town, we spend a huge chunk of time with the main characters in their travels. The terror doesn't pick up until past the halfway mark. When it does hit, it doesn't stop until the very last page of the book.
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Kevin Richardson's artwork works with the comedic angle, but less so for the horror half. He has a cartoony style, not unlike a caricature artist. The characters are often sporting big grins, like they're mugging for the camera. The anatomy looks strange as well, with limbs frequently appearing too short for bodies or heads too large, like most of them are dwarves.
This style also makes it hard to take the kills seriously. At one point, a character is thrown to the ground as the killer is about to cut his leg off and the guy looks like he just heard a hilarious joke. I guess it was supposed to be an expression of pain or maybe a grimace. It comes across as a feeling of joy.
Southern Hospitality begins as a generic slasher story, then throws in some interesting twists. Although most of the dialogue in the first half is jovial, the artwork lends itself more to a comedy book than the brutal horror the plot ends up in.