In less than a month to 2023, thethe genre is already thriving with and viral indie phenomenon skinamarink. Writer/director Robbie Banfitch The Outwaters he’s the best of the bunch, forging his own serving of dread that is singular and terrifying. Metaphorically and literally leaves the viewer in the dark, using the primal fear of the unknown that lurks within him to chill his blood.
The police successfully recover memory cards in a remote stretch of the Mojave desert. The footage captures four travelers named Robbie (Banfitch) and his brother, Scott (Scott Schamell), along with their friends, Ange (Angela Basolis) and Michelle (Michelle May). They suddenly disappeared while venturing out on a sun-drenched camping trip that only left questions about the events that took place.
Now, their footage is about to reveal a mind-bending journey that sent the group through unimaginable horrors. However, the revelations of their secrets can leave even more confusion, as the images they contain are not designed for human eyes to see or our minds to understand.
Robbie Banfitch’s connection-seeking journey finds something far more sinister
the discovery ofThe footage is set in early 2022, but events take us back to August 2017. Its initial evidence title cards and character introductions fall squarely into the typical found footage tropes audiences expect. Each member of the group prepares for their journey to the desolate Mojave Desert as a means of introducing the travelers, each of whom begins their adventure with their own fears and insecurities that make their worst nightmares come true.
Banfitch only gives us a few clues about the world of the protagonists, focusing them on the family confusion. Robbie and Scott are brothers incurring their own family drama, the latter of whom refuses to visit his mother (Leslie Ann Banfitch). The couple talk briefly about her father, reflecting on Michelle’s grief over the loss of her mother. Banfitch’s script never plays his hand, even keeping his cards near her chest after the credits roll. The audience is left to determine how it all fits together or not.
So why are these four friends in the Mojave desert to begin with? Michelle is filming a music video for a song that her mother once sang for her. Meanwhile, the rest of the travelers are providing their skill set to better capture it. However, earthquakes start even before they hit the desert, and the sudden vibrations that course through the Earth have a part to play in the ominous environment. The longer the group of friends is exposed to their harsh conditions, the more disoriented they become.
‘The Outwaters’ taps into primal fears
Banfitch is an exceptional talent offering his skills as a writer, director, actor, producer, cinematographer, editor, sound designer, and special effects artist.implements a lot of shaky camera movement, but makes the most of the Mojave desert setting. Banfitch takes care in much of his framing, especially in the placement of the horizon that divides the deep blue skies from the earthy browns on earth. This duality is also read through his use of light and dark, which become even more contorted as his adventure unfolds.
Horror fans obviouslyhow much The Outwaters it incorporates its found footage format, as well as its missing protagonists, who only left this footage behind. However, Banfitch finds his own rhythm choosing to put his emphasis on the characters’ descent into utter chaos. It’s HP Lovecraftian storytelling madness with a lingering, inescapable desolation.
The Outwaters he doesn’t shy away from shrouding his audience in total darkness. It’s often hard to make out what’s going on during night scenes, but they allow Banfitch’s distinctive sound design to shine through. It’s surprisingly effective, it feels like you’re watching something you shouldn’t, as the audio is awful enough.
Isolation and loneliness are superficial themes here, as the film becomes progressively less narrative and more experiential. There is a constant change of meaning that perverts the most innocent elements of the story. Even Michelle’s lullaby takes on a new shape, going from beautiful and sentimental to haunting and chilling.
The Outwaters dips its toes into the darkest depths of hell, building an experimental approach to a tired subgenre that’s disturbing and petrifying. It’s undeniably disorienting and a bit frustrating, but it’s simply impossible to get away from this movie’s sheer nightmare fuel that permeates every corner of its desert setting. Banfitch is one of the most fascinating new voices in the horror genre.
The Outwaters opens in theaters on February 9 and will stream on Screambox after its theatrical run.