9 out of 10

Release Date: 10th December 2010

Director: Colm McCarthy

Cast: Kate Dickie, James Nesbitt, Niall Bruton, Hanna Stanbridge, Ciaran McMenamin and James Cosmo

Writer: Colm McCarthy

Trailer: OUTCAST

Another week, another werewolf movie on Britpic street. But wow, what a werewolf movie this turns out to be.  In fact is the monster on display here even a lycan? It’s only referred to as ‘The Beast’, so lets just leave it at that for now.  **Editors note: It’s actually a Celtic shapeshifter known as a Sith.** What I can be sure of though, is that this is the best UK monster flick I have seen in a seriously long time.  The tale is simple but the bloodied lily has been gilded with exceptional style and originality. Wow. Despite nursing a hangover today I was left breathless by this flick.  Witchcraft is high on the menu and spells n’ spooky incantations are thrust centre stage.  There is no space for brevity in Outcast.  This makes the use of black magic all the more effective. Some of the background history is left deliberately murky but no doubt a bit of research into the occult will shed some rhyme and reason to it all.

Mary (KATE DICKIE – PROMETHEUS) and Fergal (NIALL BRUTON) have spent the last 15 years hiding out.  But now they have chosen to stop running and face their enemies on a high rise housing estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh.  Also, two men, Cathal (JAMES NESBITT – THE WAY) and Liam (CIARAN MACMENAMIN) have been granted the right to seek them out by any means necessary.  Meanwhile, a beast is seen to be stalking residents of the estate both in broad daylight and at night. To exacerbate all this, Fergal is instantly attracted to the next door neighbour, Petronella (HANNA STANBRIDGE).  This upsets his mother to degrees that give us cause to scratch our heads in wonderment.  I won’t go any further because its not the plot that holds any surprises it’s its maguffins.  The events we are seeing played out against drab council estate trapping are not of this world. Birds are sacrificed in order to guide hunters, bird eggs are communicators, talismen are daubed on to walls or tattooed on bodies, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  In creating a completely new universe it is portrayed with clarity and a refreshing conviction.

Kate Dickie returns to the high rises of Andrea Arnold’s Red Road to deliver another astonishing performance.  It’s a fearless, primal and very scary performance. She is matched equally by James Nesbitt, who is primarily known for lighter roles.  His hungry and murderous Cathal, has echoes of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but there are no baked theatrics here.  I’ve never seen a genre pic pulled off with so much confidence or conviction in it’s own world.  The location is perfect, as high rise estates do harbour comparisons to haunted houses.  The stories that must be hidden behind them rows of windows.  The cut off nature of the higher rise flats.  The identikit appearance that was designed to be a place for leading a good life that became a living hell and by-word for no-go area.  The air of disappointment and wasted lives echo throughout.  When a particular character is cursed to walk the landings of the estate for eternity you aren’t without fear.  It’s a fate that’ll put the fear of god into you.

Outcast is all the more effective for believing in it’s own world.  The spells and dynamics seem thoroughly plausible in our world and that’s why this film works so well.  There are no comedy beats and there’s no room for any hope.  Even our heroines are without a path.  The predictable conclusion is perhaps the only ending that would fit Outcast because this is not one of those horrors that demand watered down sequels or prequels.  It is perfect as a one-off.  It is reminiscent of Candyman but even better because it has the perfect ingredients to become and ‘urban legend’.  It also has the realistic edge that ran throughout Kill List. They could both be set in the same universe  actually.

9 out of 10 – More spells than all 8 Harry Potter films, this is probably the best “man in a rubber-suit” movie of the decade. (If I can think of a better one I’ll come back and edit this.)  Some career best performances, a wonderful plot, scary locations and a bag of invention set this apart from just about every other horror movie in recent memory.



One thought on “OUTCAST

  1. review by JOE “werewolf face” PESCI II

    There may be SPOILERS ahead, for I did not like this film and am perfectly happy to give the whole game away. Look away now, or go see the film then come back and tell me how I’ve completely missed the point.
    I was looking forward to OUTCAST. A well-made British horror movie I was promised. With believable characters, and a proper plot, and a chilly atmosphere. And yes, that is what it is. But no-one told me it would be so tedious.
    So, Fergal (Niall Bruton) and his mum, Mary (Kate Dickie) are on the run. But why? And who from? Well, we don’t know why but we do know who: Cathal the hunter (James Nesbitt reminding us that he’s more than just a likeable/irritating MOR TV leading man but is in fact an extremely good actor). But Mary’s had enough and has decided to settle down on one of the more bleakly miserable housing estates in Scotland. Does she have a dark secret? Yes she does. So does Niall. But he’s at that age. And being that age, and seeing as they don’t have schools in Scotland (or so it seems) he spends his days with Petronella (Hannah Stanbridge) and her brother, to whom she is supposedly devoted.
    It’s a dead end existence in a dead end town and it’s all pretty deadening. Karen Gillan turns up, but only just long enough to become Supper Of The Beast! Yes, there’s a beast (or Beast) lurking in an Alley of Doom, and he takes a shine to the (then) future Dr Who companion and eviscerates her. She is but the first, to be joined by, amongst others, a suspicious housing officer (Christine Tremarco – whatever happened to her?). (However, she’s forgotten she’s a housing officer because Mary’s put a curse on her) (just an amnesia curse, not a ‘you will be Dinner Of The Beast’ curse) (yes, modern witches can enchant bureaucrats into forgetting they’re bureaucrats).
    So who is the Beast? Is it the adolescent Fergal, in a kind of puberty-metaphor way? Or is it Cathal in a hunter-becoming-a-literal-hunter kind of way? I shall attempt not to reveal the answer, but I’m promising nothing.
    Anyway, everyone seems to have weird occult powers. Cathal and his pal (Ciaran McMenamin), who is the Uncle Of The Beast, have a special way of tracking their quarry: they can do pigeon-shredding entrails-reading, which is all very clever, and has something to do with Cathal’s natty new tattoo, but is ultimately a bit rubbish, as they can’t even find their target when they’re in the same room as him. Signs and symbols seem to be very important, with everyone drawing figures in blood and on their skin, and Mary and Cathal sitting around naked staring at candles and all that sort of thing, and cracking open eggs but instead of cooking them, reading them. All this would have been great, but it was incredibly difficult to feel any interest in what any of these conjurors was getting up to because they were all so unsympathetic. Mary’s shielding the beast (oops) and Cathal wants to earn a new skin or keep his cool tattoo or something. (This is one of those films which doesn’t bother with explanations for civilians.)
    Anyway, eventually hunter and hunted and Mother Of The Beast square up for a bit of a chinwag and a get-together and a mutual attempt to splatter each other to pieces. This is all over in a jiffy leaving me wondering why they’d bothered. But no, there’s more. Because the Bride Of The Beast gets involved now and it all ends in tears and James Cosmo as the Godfather Of The Beast buying a cup of tea.
    I can’t quite put my finger on what it was about this film that annoyed me so much. After all, it’s powerfully acted (Kate Dickie is a scary mummy witch), shot with utter conviction, and even the Beast looks good (at the moment but special effects don’t last long). The mythology is clearly well thought out (though it’s no surprise that witchcraft has died out if you can only use it to confuse officials and anyone looking at bird innards), and it fits in with the Loach-like setting surprisingly naturally. It can’t just have been the odd little niggles, like Petronella’s brother being Mistaken For The Beast (he’s in the Alley of Doom) whereupon she just leaves him to face the music and runs off with The Beast. Or the mysterious disappearance of the dog which doesn’t seem to die (I’m sure it does die (dogs always die in horrors, it’s the law), presumably in some sort of ritual off-screen Sacrifice To The Beast). It is in no way one of those films that you laugh at (not even the bit when The Beast seems to have got stuck in a children’s playground). I wish it was.
    It might have just been that it was really slow and the characters were all idiots and no-one could run in a straight line and no-one realised The Identity Of The Beast. Maybe it was simply because the Alley of Doom just kept on turning up ready for another Victim Of The Beast. Maybe the cryptic negotiations between Cosmo, McMenamin and Nesbitt were too arcane (lots of ‘we pledge fealty and request your majesty permission to hunt on your land’ ‘no’ – that sort of thing). Unless it is the plot, which I shall now summarise.’ Let’s hide.’ ‘Let’s stop hiding.’ ‘Where is he?’ ‘Is he there?’ ‘No.’ ‘You’re nice.’ ‘Don’t go near her.’ ‘Aaarrggh!’ ‘Where is he?’ ‘Go away.’ ‘Where is he? Ah there he is. Arrgh!’ ‘Arrggh!’ A kind of violent version of Where’s Spot , I suppose.
    See it, by all means, for revelatory performances from Dickie and Nesbitt, and should you need any occult tips it might be worth a look. But, with the best will in the word, I can’t recommend this, it just sort of passed me by.

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