Atmospheric, fantastical and intriguing
One tries to use magic to kill a teen, another uses it to try and save him
Colm McCarthy knows a thing or two about keeping an audience engaged with the sound and vision before them. After all, this screenwriter/director has helmed many a television show where hooking the audience before each commercial break and right before the end credits is a must. Mastering the cliffhanger on the small screen, McCarthy has brought his directorial and storytelling skills to theatres.
Co-written with his brother, Thomas, the pair fell back on some fatherly folklore from their youth, according to Colm McCarthy’s interview with FearNet. And the result is a suspense-filled creature feature in one of Scotland’s projects (Dalkeith near Edinburgh to be exact).
The story: A mother uses magic to protect her son from men set out to destroy him. A simple tale that isn’t that simple. First, this emotional and imagery based magic is hardcore and not something out of Disney or a candy-ass G-rated film. Second, the tale is a mystery because of the final element: the characters.
Renowned Scottish actress, Kate Dickie (of non-horror RED ROAD (UK/Denmark, 2006) fame and the disappointing Ridley Scott venture, PROMETHEUS), plays the rough and ready mother on a mission. She leads a solid cast that also includes distinguished Irish actor James Nesbitt (who appears in Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT franchise), and the inspiring Hanna Stanbridge who seems to be the love child of Phoebe Cates and Jessica Alba if they could spawn. Together, they bring us solid characters Mary, Cathal and Petronella, respectively, that are emotional and driven.
After all, nothing works best like characters on a mission they believe is ethical and just. And this is the crux of the McCarthy brother’s tale: From the beginning, even though we know the players, we are not offered much of a back story, which leads the audience to question who’s the “good guy” and who’s the villain. Yet, even at the story’s conclusion, moviegoers may still ask that same question. This is a good thing because if a movie cannot generate thought after the credits roll then what’s the point? In this sense, OUTCAST is reminiscent of Paul Solet’s remarkable low budget horror, GRACE (2009) where picking a character that’s in the wrong is not an easy task.
OUTCAST does fall a bit short, however. The subtlety of the story may be a bit too subtle at times, though a second viewing may clear up some minor plot concerns, especially when it comes to the neighborhood kids and their relationship with Petronella and her brother, Tomatsk (Josh Whitelaw in his only film appearance to date). But if this is the film’s only fault, it isn’t much to worry about.
Kate Dickie and James Nesbitt are absolutely brilliant, Darran Tiernan’s camera work is fabulous, and Tom Sayer’s excellent art direction helped create that visually stunning blue-toned look of desperation and dystopia. Overall, OUTCAST is a feast for the eyes as well as a thinking person’s horror. Hell, a grad student can write a thirty page essay exploring the notions of good and evil, the element of family, ignorance versus innocence, and coming of age, all from this one movie – and that alone makes this one to watch.
Other great Irish horrors: ISOLATION (2005), WAKE WOOD (2011), and GRABBERS (2012).
(Photo from Back Up.)