‘The Outwaters’ is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life and experienced through first-person POV.
Robbie Banfitch’s The Outwaters is difficult to describe. It’s beautiful, disgusting, and wholly unpredictable. It’s horrific cosmic horror wrapped in the blue plastic material of the camping tent we see in most found footage movies. The Outwaters presents itself as a typical found footage narrative but quickly subverts those expectations with shrieking, tentacles, and a slew of utterly nightmarish imagery.
The Outwaters opens with the 911 phone call from hell. The operator calmly asks what’s your emergency as multiple people are heard screaming in agony. All the operator can do is repeat her questions while the screams continue. With just a black screen and jarring sound design, the viewer is primed for the horrific; this isn’t going to be a film with cheap jump scares. This is going to be something downright upsetting.
Then the footage, said to have been found in the Mojave desert, begins to roll. Robbie Zagorac (Banfitch) is a filmmaker working on a music video for an indie folk artist. The shoot takes them to the Mojave Desert, where he and the singer are joined by his brother Scott (Scott Schamell) and best friend Ange (Angela Basolis). It’s a simple enough shoot that requires some hiking, some camping, and a lot of time in the blazing hot sun. And, of course, Robbie didn’t do a lot of research while location scouting.
Things start to get weird really fast. During their first night, they start to hear something loud. At first, it sounds like thunder. But as it gets closer and louder, something feels off about it. It feels more purposeful and almost mechanical than thunder. It’s a deeply uncanny sound that appears to mimic something from nature but is tinged with something bizarre. It feels almost impossible to describe, which captures the ethos of The Outwaters: uncanny, bizarre, and difficult to describe.
In a twist of events that would be doing you a disservice for me to describe, the focus of the film shifts from the group to just Robbie, armed with a camera, a tiny flashlight, and nothing else. What follows is an existential and dizzying journey through different dimensions as Robbie is ripped through versions of reality with no rhyme or reason. He is the cosmos’ ragdoll, thrown through time and space until he loses his mind.
The Outwaters is a rare experience where I was shocked out of words. I stared at the scream, mouth agape, just taking it the hellish imagery that flashes on screen. It’s like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life and experienced through first-person POV. Importantly, this isn’t a film that is supposed to make total sense. It’s about the experience and the mood evoked as we follow Robbie’s own journey through something unexplainable, cosmic, and unknowable.
With The Outwaters, Banfitch imagines what happens to the campers that disappear in films such as The Blair Witch Project. This isn’t simply a tale about a mysterious disappearance. It’s about a disturbing descent into some sort of interdimensional hell that’s drenched in blood, guts, and dirt, illuminated with what’s essentially a penlight. The movie is a massive risk and thanks to Banfitch’s creativity and dedication to truly going for it, it works. The Outwaters isn’t afraid to get weird and make you feel deeply unsettled. It’s a contender for one of the best movies of 2022 due to just that. If you think you know found footage, then you need to see The Outwaters. It’ll make you a believer in the subgenre.
The Outwaters isn’t afraid to get weird and make you feel deeply unsettled. It’s a contender for one of the best movies of 2022 due to just that. If you think you know found footage, then you need to see The Outwaters.