The Outwaters: The Most Terrifying 45-Minutes Of My Life
Just On the Heels of Ball’s Skinamarink, Robbie Banfitch Continues the Experimental Horror Trend with This Original and Harrowing Found-Footage Entry
July 30th. 1999. The night was cold, void of sound and motion as the world began to stop. Audiences nationwide sat in their theatre seats, dumbfounded, as credits crawled up the silver screen. No one spoke; no one moved. All they did was sit there, speechless, for they had just witnessed one of the most prominent tectonic shifts in horror cinema history. With just a Hi8 camcorder and a tightly-knit crew of five, The Blair Witch Project changed the genre of horror forever, creating its own subgenre and spawning countless rip-offs and reimaginations.
But, as with any subgenre, found footage flicks began to feel stale and contrived, coming by a dime a dozen every few months. Then along comes The Outwaters.
A new addition to the recent string of experimental horror entries, The Outwaters is Robbie Banfitch’s feature-length debut following a series of short films, some of which served as a prelude to Outwaters. Banfitch, who also wrote, starred, shot, and edited the film, unspools his story at an admittingly frustrating pace, taking his time to get to the first scare of the film. And while this wait could have been easily trimmed, its slow burn only makes the horror all the more terrifying.
Reminiscent of Blair Witch, the film follows a quartet of friends as they make their way into the Mojave desert to shoot a music video. Before their trip, we’re treated to intimate glimpses of each central character through the lenses of Robbie’s camera as he films them in their day-to-day lives. With these simple insights, we come to know each player and their relation to Robbie, even getting a personal look at the cameraman’s own life. While a bit long, these scenes allow the audience to relax for a bit, to grasp onto something familiar before being plunged into the darkness and indescribable.
The Outwaters serves more as an explosive mosaic of sensory overload than an actual coherent story. The camera swings and flops around as light constricts in and out, limiting the viewer’s perception as we’re dropped in and out of reality, sometimes quite literally. But while what we see is limited, there’s no mistaking that we’re surrounded by forces beyond our wildest conceptions, an evil that is both indescribable and unimaginable all at the same time. Through the dizziness and lack of clarity, The Outwaters strikes you to your core, grinding your senses deeper until they’re down to their final nerve. Just like Skinamarink, The Outwaters strives in not what it shows but in what it doesn’t. The film generates fear by allowing the audience to fill in most of the pieces, letting their twisted imaginations run wild. What we can’t see, we can’t grasp onto; we can’t possibly conceive the horrors that lie within the darkest crevices of the world.
A film not for everyone (especially those of the faint-hearted), The Outwaters is an experimental experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Something that will spit you up only to spit you back out moments later, dazed and confused. It’s a horror ride that starts off as a stroll but leaves you rattled and grasping for clarity at the end.
But be weary, The Outwaters is a ride to be careful of.