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Review: Outpost – “I enjoyed this sparky little horror movie.”

I enjoyed this sparky little horror movie. It is compact (less than 90 minutes) and fun. But… I’m a horror fan and my enjoyment was on the slightly guilty side (and yes, I know there’s an argument these days that you should own your enjoyment and in the words of Mary Earps, ‘be unapologetically yourself’. I’m cool doing that with Barbie (film of the damn year)).

After a brutally violent attack, a woman called Kate (Beth Dover – Orange is the New Black) rejects conventional therapeutic techniques and instead decides to take a job as a fire lookout in a remote tower in Idaho. This immediately put me in mind of Those Who Wish Me Dead from 2021, an outstanding thriller and an object lesson in screenwriting (I’ve now read the disappointing novel it was based on. The film improves on it in every way). It’s a superficial comparison though. The films have nothing in common except a woman in a fire tower.

From the outset, this sets out its clear intention to be a horror movie, from the sinister music to flashes of maggots and rotting meat as the film opens, before implying the attack.

Interestingly, this is the first feature-length movie from Joe Lo Truglio, probably best known from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He says, “Growing up in the 70s and 80s, my love for horror began very early and I can’t wait for a global audience to see this movie. Making Outpost was a 13-year-old’s dream.” We’ll come back to that.

The film co-stars Dylan Baker and Dallas Roberts, both of whom you may know from The Good Wife, among other things, and both are excellent here in relatively small roles. I may be crazy, but something about Roberts’ demeanor puts me in mind of the late Phillip Seymour-Hoffman. Ato Essandoh adds some further poise to the movie.

I’m going to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say the first two acts of the film manage to be at once familiar and unpredictable in a way I enjoyed. The camerawork is perfectly competent but not much to report on, though it would be hard to make the landscapes around the tower anything less than breathtaking. I did like how all the imagery used in the film resolved into the story and how they were occasionally thrown at the viewer with a deliberately disorienting lack of context.

There’s nothing particularly original here. The movie riffs on everything from The Shining to last year’s Men. But the psychological aspects and the journey of wondering where all this is going are enjoyable.

Eventually, though, you have to pick a destination, and when Outpost does, I feel like it’s going to lose half its audience. Some are going to find it plain silly. It’s certainly pulpy. It put me in mind of some early Stephen King short stories.

Just like the director though, I think every genuine horror fan is very much in touch with their 13-year-old selves. So when the plot revealed where it was going and launched into its gonzo final act, this 13-year-old was grinning uncontrollably. This is not your mum’s movie.

So yeah, it was a guilty pleasure for me. Just be aware that the film deals with some important themes – trauma, misogyny, abuse – but ultimately exploits them. That sounds harsher than intended and there’s probably an argument that this is deliberately undercutting the so-called ‘elevated horror’ trope that so irritates long-term horror lovers like me. I would love to see this team let loose on something like an Evil Dead style movie and I think this does more than enough to warrant a shot at some bigger budgets.

Outpost is available for digital download from Monday 11th September.

Check out Geek Graffiti for more of my work and follow me on Twitter.

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