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The top declare to fame of horror’s found-footage subgenre has ever been its pretense of authenticity — movies for illustration The Blair Witch Project aliases nan original Paranormal Activity were designed arsenic specified convincing facsimiles of existent life that they were meant to beryllium indistinguishable from nan last activity of immoderate doomed amateur documentarian. But arsenic nan subgenre expanded, producing awesome movies for illustration [REC.] and atrocious ones for illustration Chernobyl Diaries, nan thought of these movies capturing “real life” became an excuse for low-budget, low-fi filmmaking. That’s what makes The Outwaters, nan caller scary movie written, directed by, and starring Robbie Banfitch, truthful interesting: It uses nan trappings of recovered footage conscionable capable that Banfitch tin cleverly break nan rules erstwhile things really get creepy.
The Outwaters follows a group of 4 30-somethings who spell adventuring successful nan godforsaken successful hopes of signaling nan cleanable euphony video. The movie starts disconnected recognizably enough: Robbie (Banfitch), a documentarian type, holds nan camera, capturing moments of nan group’s life together and their first fewer days successful nan godforsaken successful utmost close-up. That gives nan movie a singular consciousness of creeping loneliness early on, arsenic nan unfastened Mojave surrounds them.
But moreover successful these early moments, nan camera does much than study what’s happening, arsenic found-footage films usually do. Instead, it besides shows america Robbie’s thoughts and longings, letting america beryllium pinch him arsenic he films Michelle (Michelle May), his group’s singer, for overmuch longer than he should. These moments consciousness correct successful statement pinch The Outwaters’ style, but they’re straight antithetical to nan accustomed found-footage tropes. These thumps would look overseas successful nan existent world, and would surely beryllium remarked connected by Robbie’s friends, fto unsocial by his existent girlfriend. Instead, they’re nan first existent hint that The Outwaters is pushing nan limits of recovered footage alternatively than playing by its rules.
Further breaking from convention, The Outwaters doesn’t ramp its action up for illustration astir found-footage horror. Instead of subtly drafting retired creepier and creepier moments earlier letting things really break open, Banfitch focuses tightly connected nan friends’ normal camping travel for an exhausting (and wholly excessively long) 45-ish minutes. Once nan characters yet do get themselves into trouble, each hellhole breaks loose correct away.
This is wherever nan film’s existent instrumentality begins. Characters die, characters wounded themselves, unusual men show up pinch axes and framework themselves against nan horizon, and astir importantly, Robbie loses it completely. The further afield from reality he gets, nan much his footage shifts into thing that feels pulled straight from his slow warping brain, alternatively than from immoderate benignant of camera astatine all.
Getting these almost-point-of-view shots from Robbie is simply a fantastically disorienting experience. Banfitch is still conscious of nan camera, and still uses its limitations often, which makes nan subjective shifts moreover harder to spot and much unnerving. It feels arsenic if thing reached complete Robbie’s enarthrosis to clasp nan camera for him, conscionable truthful we could get a consciousness of immoderate new, grossly gory task his disappearing mind has group him to.
When it’s working, The Outwaters feels for illustration nan assemblage has been invited to witnesser nan horrors moving done Mike’s caput astatine nan extremity of The Blair Witch Project arsenic he stares into nan area successful nan basement. Robbie becomes a witnesser to nan terrors of fraying reality, but besides to things much cosmic and little terrestrial, and we get to spot some firsthand, acknowledgment to nan movie’s blending of his footage and his breakdown. At its best, The Outwaters places america truthful acold wrong Robbie’s encephalon that we can’t get nan region we crave to make consciousness of what we’re being shown. But it finds its biggest problems erstwhile it comes backmost to reality for much actual scares.
Among nan problems pinch this method of ethereal recovered footage — which sometimes borders connected conscionable being a first-person experiential movie — is that it’s seldom easy to support nan camera trained connected whatever’s happening to nan characters. Too often, Banfitch obscures The Outwaters’ biggest moments, undercutting their creepy potential. Scenes successful nan movie’s backmost half are usually lit by flashlight aliases not astatine all, making nan action frustratingly difficult to see, and obscuring what could person been much meaningfully creepy additions to nan film. The near-blindness is somewhat unnerving, but it’s much confusing than thing else, leaving immoderate sections without immoderate consciousness of guidance aliases dread.
Perhaps The Outwaters’ astir definitively found-footage-inspired rumor comes successful its framing device: a bid of 3 representation cards we’re expected to judge were recovered location successful nan desert, nan past grounds of nan characters’ disappearance. This is simply a subgenre classic: nan “It could each beryllium real!” feint that immoderate found-footage movies person utilized to lend nan movie immoderate real-world weight. But The Outwaters doesn’t request that gimmick. Its footage is effective capable connected its own, particularly erstwhile we’re witnessing things that look intolerable for nan camera to person captured, which strains nan memory-card framing beyond belief. The existent immersion is excellent, but nan faux-immersion doesn’t track.
The Outwaters isn’t arsenic awesome a subversion of nan found-footage subgenre arsenic thing for illustration Joel Anderson’s 2008 scary mockumentary Lake Mungo, wherever nan inherent fakeness is built not conscionable into nan plot, but into its conclusion arsenic well. In Lake Mungo, nan thought that nan images connected surface are mendacious is fundamental, calling into mobility nan accuracy of nan story, nan subjectivity of who’s telling it, and whether immoderate of it should beryllium trusted astatine all, moreover successful a fictional film. Lake Mungo uses nan questions down recovered footage arsenic a stand-in for nan different ways we process grief, and nan ways nan dormant instrumentality pinch immoderate of america successful photographs and memories (and possibly different places) agelong aft they’re gone.
While The Outwaters ne'er wholly reaches those lofty highs, it does likewise request much of its assemblage than nan mean found-footage film. It useful wrong nan confines of nan genre only agelong capable to break nan traditions, and by nan clip each hellhole breaks loose, it’s truthful acold past nan boundaries of nan subgenre that it becomes thing other entirely. The substance of point-of-view shots, accepted recovered footage, and nan consciousness of immoderate eerie third-party perceiver unstuck from clip aliases reality each create an effect that takes america deeper into Robbie’s unraveling mind than a much accepted scary movie ever could.
The Outwaters is successful prime theaters now. It tin beryllium streamed connected Screambox aliases rented connected VOD from services for illustration Amazon aliases YouTube.