Written by: Colm McCarthy, Tom K. McCarthy
Directed by: Colm McCarthy
Starring: David Baxter, Therese Bradley and Niall Bruton
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Fear the unknown.
Outcast doesnít feature werewolves, but Iíd say itís a werewolf movie nonetheless. It features a mother and son, both of whom are guarding the terrible secret that they sometimes transform into some sort of hideous beast, and thereís even mentions about cycles of the moons and forbidden romances and everything. Iím not sure why Colm McCarthy didnít just go ahead and make a werewolf movie, but itís fine all the same since he crafts a compelling movie that plays with the skeletal framework of wolfman stories by injecting it with its own unique mythology.
Mary (Kate Dickie) and Fergal (Niall Bruton) are the mother and son duo who have just moved into a new, slummy neighborhood. Even though they seem to be somewhat secretive, they seem to be rather normal as they go about their lives. Fergal even makes friends and catches the eye of the girl next door, Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge). However, their arrival is also accompanied by a couple of mysterious bounty hunter types (James Nesbitt and CiarŠn McMenamin) that have been charged with tracking down Mary and Fergal, and their hunt becomes all the more urgent when local citizens begin falling prey to a mysterious beast.
It takes Outcast a little while to find its footing, and you can almost set your watch by how it begins to parcel out information. You can sense something is a little off--Mary coats the walls with weird symbols, Fergal is generally broody, plus the two bounty hunters are obviously up to no good as they receive orders from an enigmatic old man (James Cosmo). Outcastís structure sort of reminds me of Kill List, a movie that similarly just sort of drops audiences into the middle of things and keeps its hand hidden, so maybe itís just an Irish thing. At any rate, the proceedings wind along quite orderly, so just as you hit the first half-hour mark, you can feel Act One ticking away, so we get some exposition between Fergal and Petronella that explains that he and his mom have to keep moving around because theyíre ďdifferent,Ē and weíre given glimpses of this difference when chewed up corpses begin littering the streets.
As such, the typical wolfman trajectory is set (albeit with a few wrinkles), so the middle section sags a bit under this familiarity. Fergal and Petronellaís love is obviously ill-fated, but the two leads inhabit the roles and infuse them with enough empathy; Stanbridge especially is a standout here--sheís really tough and holds her own, making Petronella a sweet but feisty girl. The other woman in Fergalís life is obviously his mother, and thereís an earlier moment between the two that really captures the friction underlying their bizarre relationship. As they eat dinner, they discuss Fergalís blossoming social life, and when the subject of girls is broached, Dickie flies off into an intense rage and reminds him that he can never get involved with the fairer sex. Her fanaticism is reminiscent of Piper Laurieís in Carrie, so this intensity propels the film fairly well; obviously, Fergal is going to rebel against her, and even Petronella herself has some awkward interactions with her. Of course, thereís also the matter of the two hunters, who are tossed in to complicate matters, so the streak of rebellion that should be at the center of the story gets pushed aside a bit by the end.
A secret concerning one of the hunters and Mary is the information that kicks off Act Three (and, as you might expect, it comes right around the hour mark). Youíll also know that youíre ramping up towards the end when you come to a silly meditation duel between Dickie and Nesbitt, both of whom are nude. This silliness foreshadows how Outcast goes just a bit off the rails by the time it ends; for the first 75 minutes or so, itís actually quite minimalist, and McCarthyís slick, handheld style gives the film a cool, ground-level feel that also holds back just enough. We see the gory aftermath of one of the slayings, but we barely see the actual beast. Until the end, that is, when itís revealed to be this absurd looking CGI/practical hybrid thatís a little too loud and outrageous for the low-key affair thatís preceded it.
The ending is a bit of a misfire, but Outcast is otherwise quite solid; I like the notion that these beasts have a history, and the stuff with the two bounty hunters reveals the ins and outs of this world; weíre still never completely privy to what weíre dealing with, but we do know that these beasts canít be killed, as they come with their own rules (and no, it doesnít involve silver). This probably could have been another neat little parable for adolescence, as Fergal experiences sex and love for the first time under the dominion of a repressive mother, but itís more content to turn into a usual monster movie. And thatís fine since itís a well put-together one. Outcast is the latest from Bloody Disgustingís Selects line, a series thatís shored itself up quite nicely after a slow start. The presentation is top notch, with the 5.1 surround track being one of the more aggressive and enveloping Iíve heard lately. A behind-the-scenes featurette, a stills gallery, and a trailer round out the discís somewhat sparse offerings, which will probably make you want to wait for this to pop up on Netflix. Outcast isnít among the very best that the Selects line has had to offer, but itís one of the more solid offerings, and itís not a bad little riff on werewolf flicks. Rent it!
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