Film Review: Outcast
Review by Marc Patterson
There are horror films designed from the ground up to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. These films follow a particular and familiar formula and come with big marketing budgets and slick ad campaigns. Outcast is NOT one of those films. Outcast avoids the “little of something for everyone” approach instead offering everything to someone. It’s a film that will appeal to a particular type of horror fan, and this comes as no slight to those who aren’t included in the narrow scope of the director’s vision. Luckily for this reviewer, I happen to be that someone.
Shot in both Ireland and Scotland, Outcast is set amongst a dreary urban landscape, a bleak ghetto overrun with juvenile punks up to no good, heavily reminiscent of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. On the outskirts of this decaying society lies a gypsy encampment, one the likes of hasn’t been seen since we were introduced to Brad Pitt’s Mickey O’ Neil in Snatch. It’s a rotten place brimming with nasty boys who grew up to be be nasty men. Enter Cathal (Nesbitt) a dirty savage of a man who has come to the encampment to finalize an ancient rite, a pseudo pact with a devil, the nature of which isn’t revealed right away. Following a primitive tattooing session where Cathal is given magical markings he sets upon a task: “Kill the boy, but no one else”.
Back in the urban high rise projects we meet “the boy” Fergal (Bruton) and his mother Mary (Dickie). The two share a relationship that might be best described as creepy. Fergal is an adolescent boy moving fast into manhood. (And we’re given the distinct feeling that with another full moon or two he’ll be there). His mother Mary (Dickie) is something of a witch and keeps him close to her at all times, understanding that her boy is being hunted by dark forces. There’s clearly more to these two than meets the eye. The film shrouds itself in a cloud of mystery, and this hazy mysteriousness becomes part of the film’s dark charm. Outcast transitions into a game of cat and mouse as Cathal and his partner track down Mary and Fergal.
Outcast is what I might best describe as a literary horror film, heavily leaning towards allegory, one that takes its inspiration from a late 50’s Mervyn Peake novel Titus Alone, a book that is subtly featured within the film itself as a birthday present to Fergal. A dominant theme in Titus Alone is modernity, weighing the rituals of the past against that of the future. In Outcast it is Fergal who represents Titus, a relic of the past, the last of his kind now set into a modern day world. There is the distinct feeling that this hunt we’ve stumbled upon isn’t a new mission, yet the continuation of an ongoing hunt, and that the road is finally winding to its end. At that end is the new world. In Outcast this new birth, this new world, is represented by the young girl next door Patronella, played superbly by first time actress Hanna Stanbridge. She offers Fergal an escape from his mother and from his past. Some things can’t be easily left behind and as the story progresses the tumultuous undertones reach a screaming crescendo.
Outcast is sexual, brutally violent, and at times outright cruel. But it’s also a thing of beauty, and shot beautifully. It suffers at times from some simple pacing issues, but thanks to a strong narrative and wonderful cast managed to keep my attention throughout. It is part ancient campfire poetry, part horrifying folklore and part monster movie. But you needn’t have been a English Lit major to understand or appreciate this film. You just need a sense of tempered patience and willingness to experience something off the beaten path.
Studio: Indomina Releasing
Release Date: VOD August 30, 2011
Director: Colm McCarthy
Writers: Colm McCarthy & Tom K. McCarthy
Starring: James Nesbitt, Kate Dickie, Niall Bruton, Hanna Stanbridge, Ciaran McNenamin