The Outwaters Review: Abstract found footage horror

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spoilers ahead

“It’s weird out here,” says Ange (Angela Basolis) shortly before The Outwaters goes off course. At this point in the horror film, she and her small group, camping out in the Mojave Desert, have encountered a plague of bees, a group of staring donkeys, and some kind of disturbance in the middle of the night – maybe thunder, maybe gunfire? Whatever it was, it was accompanied by the sounds of screeching wild animals.

Ange’s words turn out to be an understatement, since The Outwaters, an entry in the found footage subgenre, unfolds. It only gets weirder, eventually to the point of total abstraction. This film, which is in theaters this weekend, arrives in the wake of skinamarink, the quirky domestic horror/experimental film directed by Kyle Edward Ball that went viral and ended up grossing nearly $2 million at the box office (not bad for something that cost $15,000). Together, they seem to be part of a potential movement within horror films that aren’t just afraid of the unknown — they revel in it. For a style that has traditionally had the subtlety of a hammer to the skull, this turn to Impressionism is refreshing, although those who appreciate linear storylines and frank narrative articulation might be frustrated by the barrage of nightmarish imagery that eventually envelops The Outwaters.

The Outwaters | Official trailer

Written, directed and starring Robbie Banfitch. The Outwaters is presented as raw footage found and stitched together from memory cards recovered with the remains of a group that disappeared in the desert. Also in the group are Banfitch’s brother Scott (Scott Schamell) and Michelle (Michelle May), a singer. As in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Outwaters let us know of the certain doom that its characters will face, and this fills the introductory periods of life it then depicts with a sense of foreboding. The group gathers and heads into the desert to film a video of Michelle’s song, although there’s plenty of footage before they hit the sand. Banfitch dogmatically sticks to his RAW footage conceit and gives us isolated scenes (shot by his character) of group members which are largely free Exhibition – his character visits his mother, some of them drink together, Michelle sings, they drive a car. That section of the film, before anything that could be termed “horror” happens, is in itself unsettling as a sort of bombardment of the mundane. Everything here may or may not make sense.

It is indeed strange in the desert, and stranger still: a microphone placed in a rock formation picks up plaintive sounds, and some of the characters think they can sense energy in those rocks. At the end of memory card two (as indicated on screen) the sound has separated from the picture; a kind of whine takes over collected as material for the music video. And then the real horror: In another disturbance in the middle of the night, Robbie leaves his tent and sees the outline of a shadow-cloaked person holding an axe. That image struck me as genuinely terrifying – as terrifying as every single frame in a horror movie I can remember seeing lately. From there, abstraction takes over. There’s a lot of blood and the dissolution of Robbie’s group, with a strong indication that he killed her. What we see is often shined in the dim beam of a flashlight, further obscuring things. A pair of bloody legs are a few feet away, and then they’re with the person holding the camera. The nights turn into desolate desert days. A screeching, bloodstained snake patrols the area.

skinamarink seemed to affect people on a primal level (comments on Reddit and elsewhere were full of reminders of being scared as kids). And while tHere are some conventionally blood-soaked lightning bolts mixed in The Outwaters, The film has a similar eye on intrinsic terror, namely in being stranded and ignorant. How skinamarink, The Outwaters seems designed for the intelligence of its audience – but with a little more to chew on. It challenges you to make what you want of its macabre montage, an approach that is Worlds away from hack ’em up slashers and ghost stories based solely on jump scares. For so long people have been talking about “sublime horror,” which is just another way of discussing high-vision movies (which is what most aspire to, anyway). TThe abstract approachh a skinamarink And The Outwaters has produced films that finally deserve such an accolade.

In the outwaters, Nightmare visions flash back into the pre-desert section of the film – there’s no inherent explanation as to what exactly is going on, but there is a symmetry that reinforces the rift in reality that has taken place. “Someone help me,” Robbie says. “Who am I?” Despite all the external threats and the harshness of the environment, The Outwaters indicates that a lack of center from a Impaired perception is the most terrible thing. The Outwaters Review: Abstract found footage horror

Adam Bradshaw

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