Friday, 12 May 2023

The Outwaters (2022)

I’m not sure I have the energy for this. Despite a multitude of films to choose from, I decided to give my time to The Outwaters towards the end of what was a pretty tough work week. I really shouldn’t have bothered, because what we have here is another insultingly murky and incoherent found footage horror movie from someone too lazy to give characters actual first names that differs from the actors portraying them.

A bunch of people go into the desert to do some stuff, aiming to shoot some video content, and things eventually go mad and bloody. That is the entire plot summary for The Outwaters, and I would genuinely implore most people to avoid it. 

Written and directed by Robbie Banfitch (who also stars as a character named, wait for it . . . Robbie), there’s a good idea in the middle of this film, but two things completely ruin that idea. First of all, the runtime is too long. It isn’t over two hours, which is a big plus, but it’s far longer than it should be. This barely has enough to fill 80 minutes, so clocking in at about 110 minutes feels unforgivably misjudged, especially with so much of the first half of the movie feeling like unnecessary filler. The second big criticism I have is the shooting style, with the image often presented in just one small part of the screen illuminated by torchlight. This has happened in many other found footage movies, but it doesn’t usually take up so much of the screentime.

There are a few good moments, intriguing glimpses of nastiness that hint at larger terrors just outside the frame, but they’re not good enough to make up for the rest of the film. The script is terrible, leaving viewers to watch the madness afflict a bunch of undeveloped characters that nobody cares about, the plotting feels too meandering and random (although I may have missed some details interspersed throughout the many badly-shot scenes that felt like an endurance test), and the whole thing ultimately feels unworthy of your time. I know some people have liked this, I just cannot figure out how they managed it, but I cannot imagine anyone thinking about this after the end credits, or enthusiastically picking it for a rewatch.

The easy way to sum this up, the lazy description, is to refer to it as an adult take on Skinamarink set in a desert. If you think that sounds great then fill your boots. If you cannot think of anything worse then do yourself a favour and immediately forget that this exists. Banfitch has made something, good for him, but I will be ready to praise him when he makes something that doesn’t feel so lazy and cynical.


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