Thursday, May 18, 2023

Movie Review: OUTPOST (2023)

 Review by: Josh "The Merc" Raynor

Nature is a beautiful place to be and can provide a much-needed healing atmosphere, under the right circumstances. However, under the wrong circumstances, it can be absolutely disastrous, as we see play out in Joe Lo Truglio’s directorial debut, Outpost.

In this film, we follow Kate, a survivor of a violent domestic assault, who is just trying to escape for a while and find some peace after such a traumatic event. She takes a volunteer position at a Forest Service outpost, thinking the isolation will be good for her and will help her to heal, but what happens next is something she wasn’t prepared for.

Lo Truglio, best known for his work on the hit sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, puts the comedy aside for this horror-thriller that leans into the seriousness of abuse, and the toll it can take on a person. It’s obvious from the beginning that he’s a lover of this genre, as he manages to play with certain tropes in beautiful ways, even giving the audience homages to some classic horror films of the past, such as Final Destination and The Shining.




Outpost tackles the subject of domestic abuse in a way that most shy away from — taking the victim and turning them into an attacker. But in doing this, it shines a light on the destructive nature of such intense trauma, and just how seriously it can affect one’s psyche, without them even realizing it. Kate, played by the incredibly talented Beth Dover (Orange Is The New Black, Another Period), tries to push down her trauma, opting to deal with it all on her own after the system has failed her, but she either doesn’t realize, or is unwilling to admit to herself just how bad her trauma really is. She’s lived her whole life being abused, as we learn throughout the film. She endures sexual and mental abuse by her uncle, it’s hinted at that she was physically abused as a child, most likely by at least one of her parents, and then she suffers an extremely violent attack by the man that she loved. It’s no wonder traditional outlets of support didn’t work for her, and the fact that she was just given up on shows how broken our system is when it comes to handling mental health crises in this country.

Since most of the people around her have seemingly failed her, it makes sense that she would opt to isolate herself for three months in the woods. But the problem is, as stated by one of the characters in this movie, there’s no peace in nature, and while it may be silent out there, it’ll never truly be quiet, which is something she learns rather quickly as her mind refuses to give her the peace she so desperately needs. It doesn't matter how far you run, you can’t escape your own mind, and even though routine and isolation may keep the demons at bay, it’ll never fully get rid of them.

Outpost starts off rather mildly, using its time to set up Kate’s trauma and how it’s affecting her, but once she’s in that tower, it truly is over for her, even if she, and the audience, don’t realize it yet. She begins her slow descent into madness, which is perfectly showcased by the repeated imagery and chilling score and sound design. Whether it’s the constant buzzing noise of flying ants, even when she’s nowhere near them, or the disturbing images of rotting, disemboweled animals that flash on screen, we are never really allowed to feel at peace while watching this movie, just as Kate is never fully at peace. There is no comfort here, and that’s by design, as comfort rarely exists while dealing with intense trauma.

Lo Truglio brought together a great cast of lesser-known actors for this film, allowing the audience to become fully immersed in the events taking place. None of them feel bigger than the characters they’re playing, which grants a believability to their roles. Beth Dover, who absolutely crushes it in this film, is joined by Ato Essandoh, Dallas Roberts, Dylan Baker, Ta’Rea Campbell, and Becky Ann Baker, and together they really turn this movie into something special, a psychological thriller that snaps (just like Kate’s mind) into a bloody slasher in the third act.

I was lucky enough to get a screener of this film before its release and was able to watch it more than once before writing my thoughts down, and I’m glad I did because, while I really liked the film on my first watch, it was the second viewing that made me love it. Knowing what happens and how it all fits together gave me the ability to see the exact moments when Kate’s mind breaks and what each break leads to, and this made for a fascinating watch as it gave new meaning to certain scenes and allowed me to focus on the actual filmmaking a bit more, and how Lo Truglio utilized certain shots and sounds to tell the story long before we saw it unfold.

Overall, I think Outpost was an excellent debut film for Joe Lo Truglio, one that he should be absolutely proud of, and I hope to see him dive into the horror genre again, as he’s obviously got an eye for it.


The Merc’s Score: 9/10




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