Outpost! Wow. Who would have thought that such a naturally gifted and incredibly successful sketch comedy performer could transition so seamlessly into horror filmmaking? Well, on second thought, it seems as though every other modern horror filmmaker comes with a sketch comedy background. Jordan Peele, Zach Cregger and now… Joe Lo Truglio. Outpost is Joe Lo Truglio’s feature film directorial debut, and just like his sketch comedy peers mentioned previously, he strikes gold here with a meticulously crafted and exciting as hell horror/thriller. Outpost tackles a deeply unfortunate and serious subject so viciously, but also so effectively that the audience is left squirming for many reasons…
Beth Dover (Orange Is the New Black) plays Kate, a survivor of a physically abusive relationship. Kate is desperate to get as far away from her life, and in particular her abusive ex-lover, Mike, to deal with her post traumatic stress in peace and solitude. So to take her mind off things, Kate takes on volunteer work as a forest fire lookout on an isolated mountain outpost in Idaho. Through her best friend Nickie, played by Ta’Rea Campbell, as well as Nickie’s brother Earl, played by Ato Essandoh, Kate is set up with a post. Earl is an Idaho Land Department ranger, and is initially and seemingly unnecessarily such a hardass, but as the movie progresses and Earl’s past comes into focus, the curmudgeonly aspects of the character become easier to understand. Right off the bat, as Kate arrives in town for her post, the locals (specifically men) treat her with a dose of misogyny. One of these locals, Reggie, played by the always expressive Dylan Baker, is particularly weird. Kate is uncomfortable from the jump but does eventually find comfort. From there, Kate is finally alone with her thoughts, ready to relax in the tranquil mountaintop outpost. But the peace and tranquility is short-lived.
As I mentioned earlier, Outpost is meticulously crafted. While the story is complex with characters who are written well enough to be both interesting and mysterious, what I found to be the most effective quality of Outpost is its simplicity. Even though complexity is antithetical to simplicity, Outpost manages to weave a complex range of emotional weight into a simple scenario. Kate is dealing with the emotional trauma she had suffered at the hands of her douchebag ex, Mike, while also dealing with the impact that severe isolation can have on someone, especially someone in such a fragile state of mind. Throughout the entirety of the movie, Kate has frequent visions and hallucinations that bring her right back to the violence she encountered, as well as other hallucinogenic reminders of her traumatic upbringing with one family member in particular, the sicko Uncle Ted. On top of the frequent hallucinations, the presence of insects and dead animal carcasses throughout the movie make Kate, as well as the audience, constantly uneasy. Both the sound design and filmmaking technique throughout the movie make for an incredibly unnerving viewing experience.
Simplicity is a virtue in movies like this. Outpost gets started on a path, and stays on that path, hardly veering off course to introduce unnecessary characters and unrelated plot points. Kate takes her post early on in the film, and we understand from the get-go that she is not ready for the responsibilities of the post. As the hallucinations continue throughout, Kate, as well as the audience, start to lose touch with what’s real and what’s Kate’s imagination playing tricks on her. This second guessing leads to twists and turns and mysteries that should have seemed obvious but weren’t because of the high-level execution. As characters are introduced, including a sweet hiker named Bertha, played by Becky Ann Baker, as well as a few male incels, I mean hikers, Kate starts to feel as exposed as ever, which directly conflicts with what she had been looking for from the start. Kate’s paranoia mixed with her PTSD makes for a disastrous and maniacal combination, and it is clear that the (air quotes) solitude of the mountain turned out to be more destructive to Kate’s psyche than she anticipated. Beth Dover turns in a star performance with her portrayal of Kate in this movie. Kate’s descent into madness is wholly believable because of the consistency of Dover’s performance throughout the movie. It must be tough to play a character who has already hit rock bottom, but descends further into despair, and deeper down the rabbit hole, without it becoming farcical. But she does so effortlessly.
Did You Know? Wicked Horror TV Has Classic and Independent Horror Films Available to Stream for Free!
I was incredibly impressed with Truglio’s work on this picture as a first-time filmmaker. He clearly has a deep understanding for what works in the genre, and also has a great feel for framing a shot to be as thrilling as possible. The action in Outpost has so much juice, and there are so many jump-out-of-your-seat moments as well as “look out behind you!’ moments. I think Outpost is one of the most unique and unpredictable front to back movies I have seen in a while.
The cinematography of the surrounding landscape is so beautiful early on, but as Kate descends further and further into her own dark paranoia and lack of ability to maintain a sense of reality, the cinematography follows suit, and the landscapes become darker, the insects start to multiply, and Kate’s persona starts to shift for the worse. As everything comes into focus, and the twists and turns become clear, Outpost for sure subverted my expectations, leading to a super gnarly, gruesome and conflicting conclusion.
Outpost works as a powerful message about the debilitating impact of domestic abuse, but also works as a mysterious thriller with great writing, beautiful and haunting set pieces, freaky as hell special effects and fantastic performances across the board. The top-notch quality of the execution and original storytelling in Outpost makes for a great addition to the genre, and I’m sure audiences will enjoy this one. I know I sure did…
Wicked Horror Rating: 8.5/10
Outpost will release theatrically nationwide, and will also be available via VOD, on May 19th, 2023.