Friday, January 14, 2011


OUTCAST (2010)
Release Date: January 17th 2011 
RATING: Cert. 18
DIRECTOR: Colm McCarthy
CAST: James Nesbitt, Karen Gillan, James Cosmo, Kate Dickie, Christine Tremarco, Niall Bruton, Hanna Stanbridge

PLOT: On the run from a deadly pursuer and using an ancient form of magic to hide themselves, Irish travellers Mary (Dickie) and her teenage son, Fergal (Bruton), wind up living in a dingy flat on a run down council estate in the suburbs of Edinburgh. Shortly after arriving, Fergal makes friends with a pretty, feisty neighbour, a Scottish-Romany girl called Petronella (Stanbridge), but it is a relationship which the fiercely protective Mary is determined to prevent from developing – and for very good reason.

FILM: Director Colm McCarthy's feature film debut OUTCAST (2010) follows an intense Irish mother Mary (Dickie) and her teenage son, Fergal (Bruton) as they settle into a low income housing complex in Edinburgh, Scotland. The film doesn't paint Edinburgh glamorously, it's a down trodden sort of place full of gloom and shadow. Mary and her son are not your average ordinary mother and son, she's a powerful mystic, a conjurer of dark Celtic magic and her idea of interior decorating is to mark the walls of their home with mystical runes to ward off those that would harm her son. A particularly effective scene involves her casting a ruinous spell upon a pestering social worker that leaves the woman an amnesiac. In many ways her son Fergal is a typical young man, he's unruly and full of budding sexuality but there's something dark lurking within him. The divide between Fergal and his mother widesn as he takes a liking to the sassy girl next door, Petronella (Stanbridge) leading to some downright uncomfortable confrontations between mother and son. The threat mom fears is a bruiser of a man called Cathal (Nesbit) who's been tasked to track and kill them by a rival mystical clan. Cathal's body had been adorned with tattoos that grant him strength and powers that aid him while he prowls the streets for Fergal. One such incantation involves gutting a pigeon and spilling it's guts onto the pavement in an effort to divine Fergal's whereabouts. I appreciate the way the filmmakers handled the occult elements in the film with a stark realism, no fantastical fairy dust here folks and it makes for a more potent watch. Cathal seems to be a force of good in the narrative but he's a dark individual, and it's not he I found myself rooting for. In the midst of this people are being attacked and eaten by a hulking beast in Fergal's neighborhood. It's unclear if it has a connection to Fergal or Cathal, but you know it's coming into play at some point.

Outcast is a slightly confusing bit of film and slightly impenetrable in places, the tone is a bit uneven but despite a few tolerable shortcomings it's a seriously creepy and haunting fable of battling mystical clans. The film culminates with the inevitable showdown between Cathal, Mary and Fergal. Honestly, it's a bit anticlimactic in my opinion. However, the reveal of the hulking beast as it emerges from the shadows after only being glimpsed throughout the film is fantastic stuff.

DVD: The film is presented in 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 widescreen with 5.1 surround sound. It's a good looking image with a bit of a dull muted color palette, but it works as the film is set in a slummy area. The 5.1 surround that while not explosive is immersive and kicks in when appropriate.  Optional English subtitles are included and were appreciated as the Irish accent were impenetrable at times but not distractingly so. Special features are nearly non-existent with only a theatrical trailer.
- Trailer (1:23)

VERDICT: OUTCAST is an engaging supernatural thriller with elements of mysticism and folklore set in modern times, the gloomy urban sprawl was an eerie setting and the film  managed to maintain it's mystery, something too few films aspire to do in an era when everything must be explained to death. A solid cast, an interesting script, and well done minimal special effects enhance this indie entry. Not a stunner but a definite recommend particularly if you enjoyed HEARTLESS (2009) or NIGHT WATCH (2004).
*** (3 out of 5 stars)