DVD Review: Outcast (2010)

Directed By Colm McCarthy
Starring Niall Bruton, Kate Dickie, Hanna Stanbridge and James Nesbitt

Young mullet-sporting Irish lad Fergus (Niall Bruton) and his overbearing mother Mary (Kate Dickie) move into a dingy housing estate, living light and on the run from gruff, mystic tracker Cathal (James Nesbitt), who’s mercilessly hunting them both. As Mary strives to keep the boy safe, Fergus starts to fall for neighbour girl Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge) despite his mother’s warnings that contact with girls will unleash the beast that lurks within him. As Cathal closes in and Fergus and Petronella grow more intimate, things become more worrisome as a mysterious creature begins killing off the locals (including Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan in a brief appearance as a pikey teen).

Borrowing liberally from An American Werewolf in London and Ginger Snaps, Outcast takes lycanthropic movie elements and the age-old ‘monster movie as allegory for adolescence’ trope and steeps it in the stark, gritty genre of kitchen sink social realism. The dingy, run-down and almost post-apocalyptic setting of grimy housing estates and disused wastelands makes for an effectively dreary, hopeless backdrop, and the thick, near-impenetrable Scottish dialects and dense Gaelic mythology results in a grim, bleak horror film that’s distinctly Irish.

The problem is that the dour tone seeps into the character and plot, leaving the forbidden teen romance that’s supposedly the crux of the film a lifeless, boring slog to endure. Niall Bruton’s character Fergus amounts to one perpetual 90 minute look of gormless adolescent confusion, romantic interest Petronella ranges from sullen to moronic (she dismisses his creepy secular ramblings and the runes written in blood all over his walls as “dead cute”) and the chemistry and rapport between the two is non-existent.

What’s left is the snail-paced chase between magic-empowered hunter Cathal and Fergal’s mother Mary, who’s using her own Celtic mojo to keep her son hidden and protected. Sadly, that plotline is similarly affected by the film’s plodding momentum; the Celtic mysticism plot is a repetitive series of gooey bird sacrifices, naked rituals (if you’ve ever had the hankering to see Nesbitt’s nutsack for any reason, Outcast will help you cross that off your bucket list) and bursts of muddled exposition and incoherent mythology that do little to enliven or redeem the drudgery of the first two acts.

Things pick up in the final twenty minutes as boozy, unhinged Cathal finally tracks down the flat and goes all Jack Torrance, finally giving Nesbitt something to do and bringing the monster madness to the fore. Sadly, though, while the horror movie theatrics of the final act are considerably more entertaining than the monotonous, lethargic kitchen sink drama that precedes it, they’re scuppered by some alarmingly shoddy effects that’d make the average SyFy Original Movie look Oscar calibre by comparison. The problems aren’t helped as Tom K. McCarthy and Colm McCarthy’s script continues to dump chunks of its muddled mythology right up until the final seconds, with so many “You can only kill the beast if…” moments it devolves into silliness.

Outcast boasts fantastic performances from James Nesbitt and Kate Dickie, while the film’s central conceit -a monster movie anchored in social realism drama roots – is an interesting one, but McCarthy awkwardly decides to embrace the worst that both of its melded genres have to offer. Taking a languid pace and all-too-sparse character and slapping them together with derivative, sloppily-executed horror movie ideas and a messy, exposition-filled mythology, sadly the unique identity and original ideas sandwiched between are largely outweighed and obscured by everything the film does wrong.

Momentum Pictures’ DVD boasts an attractive video transfer and a perfectly fine 5.1 audio track, along with English subtitles for those who need them (thanks to the archaic slang-laden Irish accents, they’re a handy inclusion).

Trailers for Ajami and Monsters pop up before the menu, while Outcast’s trailer is included as a special feature, but that’s the extent of the extras.

The Film:

The DVD:

Outcast is available to buy on DVD in the UK from 17th January 2011.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.