EIFF 10: Outcast Review
Third acts. It's become an increasingly prevalent rule of thumb that many of what could be otherwise excellent movies seem to throw things away in the final third for the easy/lazy/cliched way out. After all these years it's still hard to understand why, but following this vein is Outcast, which starts off as an excellent occult horror film and disappointingly ends as just another creature feature.
Mary and Feargal are no ordinary mother and son moving in to a run down Edinburgh council estate. No sooner have we been introduced to them than Mary is stripping off and painting mystic symbols on the walls in her own blood--not exactly your average Ikea décor. Cal is no ordinary guy either. No sooner have we met him than he is having mystic symbols tattooed on his skin with a hammer and pins by a crusty old man and being issued a set of rules on their “use”. Not exactly your average saturday night. Pretty soon it becomes clear that Cal is hunting down Mary and Feargal for reasons not yet clear, and there's a whole lot of intriguing gypsy voodoo involved to spice things up along the way.
Director and co-writer Colm McCarthy get things off to a great start, with moodily shot Edinburgh locations and a gradual build which cleverly tries to avoid giving too much away too soon. The cast is equally excellent, with James Nesbitt on top form as the growling, single-minded Cal and Kate Dickie an equal match as Feargal's overprotective mother. Where things falter is when the occult cat and mouse game starts to intersect with a “mysterious beast killing the locals” subplot. Despite McCarthy's admirable attempts to keep you guessing, what was an interesting and fresh concept descends in to a rather standard stalk and slash finale that is a lot less satisfying than what has come before.
It's great to see such a strong project come from a celtic collaboration between Scottish Screen and the Irish Film Board, and Colm McCarthy and his brothers could well be up-and-comers to keep an eye on. It's just a shame that they couldn't sustain the freshness of their ideas right to the closing scenes.
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