The Outwaters - New Release Review
Director: Robbie Banfitch
Starring: Robbie Banfitch, Scott Schamell, Angela Basolis, Michelle May, Leslie Ann Banfitch, Aro Caitlin
Written by: Robbie Banfitch
Produced by: Robbie Banfitch
Cinematography by: Robbie Banfitch
Original Score by: Salem Belladonna
Four travelers encounter menacing phenomena while camping in a remote stretch of the Mojave Desert.
Found footage films can often be met with a certain degree of reservation and rightly so. There was a time in the not so distant past where the sub-genre became a swamp of mediocrity and over saturation. It felt like found footage was becoming almost a parody of itself with so many titles flying off the conveyor belt. It's a difficult sub-genre to nail because it's usually just 30-40mins of fairly nondescript set up to get to that moment of disorientating camera work, really loud noises and usually a ton of terrifying jump scares. 'The Outwaters' admittedly still follows that pattern a bit but it definitely spins the formula in it's own direction and the final act is absolutely horrifying.
Told from various perspectives as footage discovered on three memory cards found in the Mojave Desert, a group of four creative friends head out deep into the desert to record a music video. This is where creator Robbie Banfitch (who wrote, directed, shot, edited and sound designed) initiates this first non-traditional element of the found footage genre. Unlike most of the victims we see in theses films who seek out some sort of haunted house, or urban myths, or cursed object, these people are innocents who are legitimately just out here doing their job.
For a total of approximately 55 minutes or so 'The Outwaters' is a relatively boring film that doesn't make any effort to highlight or foreshadow any of the danger the group are about to embark on. At least not in a glaringly obvious way. We really are just following a group of creatives as they prepare and travel to their desert location. I never warmed to the characters either so this slow set up felt unwarranted to me. The introductions and subsequent day to day recordings of the group is a bit banal and it probably lasted longer than required but it is the explicit antithesis of what's to come.
When the group arrive at their location they are welcomed by beautiful pinkish night skies and the serene calmness of the desert that helps to create an idyllic reverie for the characters. And then all hell breaks loose.
There's an inference here that we might be witnessing something along the lines of a real life version of 'The Hills Have Eyes' but what we actually get is something even darker and more monstrous.
The remaining 50 minutes can only be described as a pandemonium of auditory and visual cosmic nightmares. And it all happens so suddenly that it's difficult to comprehend to begin with. In fact the whole experience is a surreal hellscape that is constantly making us question the reality of the images we're seeing. It's not an easy film to follow along with in terms of what the fuck is actually happening, however the categorical aim of the film itself is to leave the viewer in a state of distress and it delivers that sensation in spades.
The insane third act plays out in almost complete darkness with only a lone flashlight shining some light (and occasional sense) on what is transpiring. But what really is transpiring? Your guess is as good as mine but what I do know is that there is lots of blood. Like LOTS of blood and hellish screams and inexplicable sequences that seem to test the boundaries of time and space. Robbie is separated from the group and descends into a rabbit hole of madness. Confusion then panic then utter denial all boiled in the same pot with a hefty amount of manic hysteria causes Robbie to go around and around in circles of insanity. The final couple of scenes in particular are just absolutely wild to watch.
If you can stick out the mundane character development of the first half of the film then you'll be rewarded with a sensory cavalcade of horrific proportions.
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- Gavin Logan
'The Outwaters' is released in selected theatres February 9th and available to stream exclusively on Screambox later in the year