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OUTCAST
DVD Region 2. Momentum.

OutcastWhat to make of Outcast? Here we seem to have a film that is full of interesting ideas, but which seems bogged down with the kitchen-sink, council estate Coronation Street mentality that has been the curse of British cinema for years. The end result is a movie that has as many off-putting moments as impressive ones.

Mixing Celtic mythology with grim urban reality, the film follows Mary (Kate Dickie) and her son Fergal (Niall Bruton), who have escaped Ireland and are hiding out in a dingy flat in an equally dingy Edinburgh council estate. Mary paints magical symbols on the walls and is, we're told, a witch, while Fergal seems withdrawn and silent. Despite this - and in one of the moments where suspension of disbelief becomes hard - neighbour Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge) takes a fancy to him, and is soon persuing a relationship, despite him having no discernable personality whatsoever (admittedly, the other locals are a cliched mob of chavs, so competition probably wasn't that strong).

Meanwhile, the pair are being hunted by Cathal ((James Nesbitt), who we first see being tattooed with assorted runes, and who seems to have been brought in to track 'the beast'. What beast? This'll be the long-clawed monster we see snatching locals and gutting them. There would seem to be an attempt to make the true identity of this demon a mystery, but frankly, there's no way you won't guess it right away.

OutcastOutcast certainly has a moody feel to it - dark, subdued and grim, the film conjures up a powerful atmosphere during the 'scary' scenes. But director and co-writer Colm McCarthy seems too wedded to his TV past, and the film also has the depressing feel of a Ken Loach film - this is not a good thing. It feels like British cinema by numbers. It'd be nice if filmmakers could find a middle-ground between Shane Meadows and Richard Curtis when it came to characters - and it might actually reflect the 'reality' so many of them are keen on more accurately.

There are some impressive moments, admittedly - Nesbitt carving off a chunk of his own flesh for use in a ritual, some brutal spots of violence, and some intriguing snippets of mythology. Nesbitt is fairly impressive as the fanatical and ruthless 'witchhunter', while Dickie is convincing as the fairly unsympathetic 'witch'. Hanna Stanbridge makes for an appealing heroine and Ciarán McMenamin, as Cathal's assistant / minder is effective too. However, Bruton fails to register any personality at all, and as the film is essentially centred around him, this is a real problem. Dr Who fans might be thrilled to hear that Karen Gillan makes an appearance, though don't get excited - she plays a none-too-appealing local skank and is killed after a few minutes on screen.

Unfortunately, the film keeps it's biggest blunder for the end, with a dreadful transformation scene and a really, really ropey monster that is more likely to induce laughter than screams. It's a pity because, despite its faults, the film had just about started to come together at this point. Oh well.

Outcast certainly isn't awful. But it is unfocused and unclear about just what it wants to be - occult mystery, monster movie or socio-realism. In the end, it's caught somewhere between all three.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

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