Fear of the Unknown
The Outwaters is a Scary Premise That Goes Off the Rails
One of the unsung pleasures of the horror genre is its ability to turn familiar places into unfamiliar scenes of dread and terror. This year's Skinamarink did that all too effectively with a typical suburban home and now The Outwaters attempts the same with the very ground we all walk on. It's an ambitious undertaking but director Robbie Banfitch goes a little too deeply into experimentation. The result, despite some creepy imagery and brilliant sound design, is more alienating than terrifying.
Taken from three recovered memory cards after four young people disappeared in the Mojave Desert while shooting a music video five years earlier, the footage reveals a simple camping trip that uncovers a strange phenomenon. As night falls, the four travelers undergo a series of events where nature, the earth, and even reality itself begin to turn against them.
Banfitch is clearly going for an incomprehensible, Lovecraftian kind of horror and it is an admirable effort for such a small budget. However, the constant shaky camera and intentionally poor lighting indicative of found footage films leaves the horror frustratingly obtuse. Plus, one of the cameras used has several dead pixels that makes the first act very distracting. It is said that what we don't see is scarier than what we do, but there still needs to be something — anything — for the audience to understand. Otherwise the horror becomes a series of random images that soon get repetitive. I feel bad picking on such a small film for being ambitious but in this case, the ambitions may have overwhelmed everything else.
The Outwaters is available on Amazon Prime, AppleTV+, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudu // Written and directed by Robbie Banfitch // Starring Banfitch, Angela Basolis, Michelle May, Scott Schamell, and Leslie Ann Banfitch // 110 minutes // Unrated ('R' equivalent)