SXSW FILM 2010
By Dave Campbell | March 25, 2010
Director: Colm McCarthy
Writers: Colm McCarthy, Tom McCarthy
Starring: James Nesbitt, Kate Dickie, Niall Bruton, Hannah Stanbridge, James Cosmo
Mary (Kate Dickie) and her son Fergal (Niall Bruton) live as nomads, always on the run, from something mysterious. They settle into a less than stellar flat in an apartment complex isolated outside of town. We soon learn that Mary’s cultural lifestyle is something unique as she removes her clothing and paints symbols on the interior walls of the flat using a mixture of blood and herbs. At the same time we meet Liam and his traveling companion named Cathal (James Nesbitt) who is having symbols traditionally tattooed by hand on this back. Cathal hopes to reach the upper ranks of some kind of group and be accepted as he uses ritual and symbols to find and kill Mary and Fergal.
Knowing that they are being tracked, Mary and Fergal continue to stay vigilantly one step ahead of the blood thirsty Cathal and Liam. To complicate things more for Mary, Fergal is a teenage boy with growing needs and desires. Their saucy next door neighbor Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge) has caught his attention, to the disapproval of his mother. Suspiciously some kind of strange creature is terrorizing residents of the surrounding flats on a nightly basis. Rooted in ancient Celtic ritual and magic, we soon learn that Mary and Fergal’s deceased father where from two different fairy tribes and should have never been together – and that it’s Fergal’s uncle (Cathal) that has come to exterminate them.
Outcast is a fairly sound film, both technically and structurally, with cinematographer Darran Tiernan and the design team being the driving force of the production value. The actors and story also give credit to the fascinating nature of the film. The special effects however were a different story. In the third act of the film, we are presented with too good of a look at the creature; and it’s not a pretty picture. In a film with a restrained budget, it’s important that the filmmakers understand their boundaries and not bite off more than they can chew. Instead of maintaining a consistent suspense and thrill to the film, the reveal of the beast just came off as silly and cheap. If less screen time had been given to the reveal and our imaginations were left to fill in the blanks, Outcast would have been a stronger experience.
First time feature director Colm McCarthy has a promising future as he’s proven in UK Television, but he has to learn restraint and how to edit per a film budget. It’s true the old cliche; “sometimes less is more”. The elements were all there, but just like a teenage boy on his first date, McCarthy’s over excitement exposes his inexperience.