Dir. Robbie Banfitch (2022)
A filmmaker and his brother follows a folk singer and a makeup artist into the desert to shoot a music video. All hell (literally) breaks loose.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I wouldn’t be the first writer on the internet to heavily critique H. P. Lovecraft’s penchant for the word “indescribable,” that ever lazy Lovecraftian trope of simply acknowledging that he lacks the prosaic skills to paint the necessary verbal picture that informs his literary audience and their imaginations. Fans of the author will point out, however, that there is a limit to human imagination, and that is at these boundaries that things achieve the utmost terror. If the Old Gods existed, would they take a form we would even recognize, or would their very appearance drive us mad, laying waste to our neural network by destroying the very nature of what we can comprehend. It is this world that Robbie Banfitch’s new film The Outwaters plays, crafting a film that is at once terrifying, and, well… indescribable.
The story is about a videographer who wants to make a music video for folk singer Ange (Angela Basolis), and he brings his brother Scott (Scott Schamell) and a makeup artist Michelle (Michelle May) to help with the shoot. As the foursome traipses through the wasteland that is the Mojave Desert, things begin to unravel as the group finds itself in a purgatory created from the most terrifying sights imaginable. Banfitch pulls no punches in exploring these events, cunningly composing a film where what you hear is almost universally more important than what he allows you to see.
Utilizing the often-derided technique of found footage, Banfitch creates a true assault on the sense, brilliantly leaving so much unseen as to make the audience feel like it’s in a deprivation chamber for a lot of the film. A flashlight and a camera are all that illuminates the horrific events that befall Robbie (played by Banfitch himself) and his friends, providing a tunnel-visioned of hell on Earth that leaves little to the imagination by the film’s brutal finale. The Outwaters executes a vision of hell on Earth like an almost two hour cut of the legendary Hell scene from Event Horizon, and by the end of the film I was left speechless at everything that I had just witnessed.
The film will almost certainly be divisive, however. We’re missing a good bit of the why in the film, and for that reason alone I can certainly understand this not being everyone’s cup of tea. There’s little explanation and at times even less of a linear plot, and a good bit of the film feels like more of an experiment in terror than a plot-forward film. It’s Lovecraftian cosmic horror, though, and within those boundaries it knocks the entire thing out of the park. The gore is top-notch, and the sound design is infernally terrifying. There were parts of this film that stuck with me and left me thinking about them for days afterwards, and there’s not a whole lot more you can ask of a horror film. At the end of the day, even if the film doesn’t hit your sweet spot, it’s going to haunt your nightmares. Something tells me Banfitch would satisfied with that.
Who this movie is for: Art horror fans, Cosmic horror lovers, Singer/songwriters
Bottom line: As close to a vision of hell on Earth that I’ve ever seen depicted in film, The Outwaters is a film that will stick with you long after watching. While there is perhaps a bit too much left to the imagination at times, what you do see is more than enough to permeate your nightmares. With its practically Stygian sound design and some delightfully terrifying visuals, this is a film that is destined to be a cult classic. Check it out in theaters at your earliest convenience. But don’t say I didn’t warn you