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The Outwaters ★★★★



Director: Robbie Banfitch

Cast: Robbie Banfitch, Angela Basolis, Scott Schamell, Michelle May, Leslie Ann Banfitch

Release Date: February 9th 2023

“We All Die in the Dark.”

Widely regarded as an entry into the ‘cosmic horror’ sub-genre, Robbie Banfitch’s D-I-Y found-footage, phantasmagorical work The Outwaters takes a hallucinatory plunge into the recesses of true malevolence. Following on, in spiritual succession, from the widely well-respected postmodern found-footage horror such as As Above So Below and The Borderlands, The Outwaters aligns itself in trinity with these other genre pieces in their presentations of utter depravity and Hell on earth.

Narratively told on three separate SD cards, a group of moderately hedonistic but all-loving
friends embark on a trip into the Mojave Desert to film a music video for their talented friend. After a series of gorgeous auditory experiences with the environment that surrounds them, and some mesmerising found-footage photography of the landscape, with some overt nods to the likes of Terrence Malick and his cinematographic work with Emmanuel Lubezki on The Tree of Life, they are nightmarishly greeted by booming, sonic resonance and petrifying thumps in the dark as a cloud of evil begins to surround them. Oozing otherworldly malice, they are greeted with what can only be described as a rupture in the sky, sparking a descent into a warped, human degradation of both the body and the soul.

From screeching tentacles to fragmentary, soul-pounding earthquakes, accompanied by mesmeric strip-strobe lighting and petrifying extreme close-ups, Banfitch utilises the found-footage form to only give us slight glimpses of this all-consuming horror. With the majority of the third act facing towards the obsidian darkness of the Mojave desert, the horror is found in shapes the spectator forms when presented with this utter darkness. As if lost into the belly of a hellish abyss, Banfitch guides us through different stages of this infernal geography, culminating in a subterranean, terror-stricken audiovisual experience similar to that found in Kyle Edward Ball’s Skinamarink. On a formal level, Banfitch’s D-I-Y techniques are wildly experimental and entirely transfixing. From the middle act to the denouement, his camera is restless, and his editing becomes completely disorientating. One sequence includes hypnotising, circular light bulbs, as a thin-strip strobe light pierces through the frame; another includes a fluctuation in sound design between the sound operated by the camera and the sound coming from the Boom Mic Banfitch’s character carries throughout his journey. The Outwaters is an audiovisual experience that demands to be seen alone and in the complete darkness.

Coinciding with the cinematic release of Skinamarink, it is evident that the found-footage subgenre is more than alive. Newfound auteurs such as Robbie Banfitch and Kyle Edward Ball both utilise the simplicity of light and dark, of silence and sound, to delve deep into our subconscious, as individuals and as a collective. Furthermore, this renaissance of D-I-Y horror, also shown in the efforts of Damien Leone in both Terrifier and Terrifier 2 is a testament to grass-roots, low-budget filmmaking efforts.

The Outwaters is utterly petrifying and universally devastating. It will take a lifetime to become well acquainted with what it felt like being dragged through the Mojave desert, entirely vulnerable to the all-consuming forces around me. A borderline masterpiece that takes so much from the past but puts forward so much compassion for simply creating cinema. The Outwaters is categorically a must-see feature for those who dare to descend.

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