Directed by Colm McCarthy
Distributed by Vivendi Entertainment
Outcast is a particularly odd film to categorize. It’s sort of a werewolf movie, except it never really ends up being about werewolves. It feels like it’s taking the viewer through familiar territory but keeps finding ways to circumvent the norm. At the outset, its characters aren’t tremendously likable people, but they’re soon given enough depth and personality to make us care. I wasn’t expecting very much from Outcast at the start, but it held my interest right from the get-go. By the end I was quite surprised by how easily it held my attention, and that is perhaps the best compliment I can give it.
For a few minutes at the start it feels like Outcast is about to befall the same fate as dozens of other modern horror films. That it to say, it looks like it’s telling a story far outside the possibility of its budget. But writers Colm and Tom McCarthy work well within their limitations to offer up a story of shape-shifting evil hiding out in an Edinburgh slum. There are a lot of moving pieces here: from teenage lovers to an overbearing and sadistic mother and two mysterious men who practice magic while hunting for “revenge”.
It’s remarkably well cast, and all of the actors bring strong work to the table. Kate Dickie really steals the show as Mary, a nefarious matriarch who lords over her son, Fergal (Niall Burton), trying to discourage his relationship with local girl Petronella (Hanna Stambridge). Dickie is gleefully evil and merciless, but not without an air of mystery that makes her a compelling character. She’s also got a mean streak a mile wide when it comes to self-preservation, resulting in some dark humor once she starts deflecting suspicion away from her flat. There’s also a lot of speculation as to what she really is and how the seeming protagonists fit into the picture. This isn’t an earth-shattering narrative, but it’s unconventional enough to keep horror fans on their toes.
Director Colm McCarthy really makes great use of the gritty Edinburgh locales, too. Shadowy street corners, spooky old apartments, mystical altars – there’s a terrific feeling of the supernatural world seething directly below our mundane existences. The movie doesn’t shy away from perversity either, exploring the sexuality of our characters – even in some uncomfortable instances.
Outcast isn’t always successful, though. Its pacing may be slightly uneven, and the climax isn’t exactly as strong as it needs to be – a bit disappointing, considering I really did enjoy the duration. The ending isn’t bad either; it just led me to believe we were headed toward something a little more slam-bang than what we got. But it’s worth a look. Certainly better than most import horror I’ve seen lately and more competently assembled than most.
Vivendi Entertainment brings Outcast to DVD with a less than complementary list of special features. One throwaway featurette, a stills gallery and the international trailer are all you get here. Sadly, the flick isn’t on Blu-ray so you’ll have to make do with a DVD transfer that’s somewhat solid, if unspectacular.
Outcast doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it tells an effective horror story well within its means. It’s a subgenre mash-up that works really well, especially for those who feel like creatures of the night have gotten a bit too mainstream for their own good. This is well worth a look as one of the more intriguing horror films in recent memory. It probably won’t knock your socks off, but it will hold your attention.
3 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5