UFF Review: Robbie Banfitch Unearths A New Breed of Extraterrestrial In ‘The Outwaters’
A series of pictures and general information about the victims accompanied by a horrific recording of a 911 call set the stage for the grim events that will unfold across Robbie Banfitch’s The Outwaters before temporarily thrusting the viewer into the personal lives of these travelers via memory cards recovered from their camera. Through displaying personal moments between the characters they’re very organically introduced to the viewer while documenting their preparation for a trip to the Mojave desert to shoot a music video. Robbie (Banfitch himself) does most of the camera operating since he’s the videographer/producer half of the lead siblings while Scott (Scott Schamell, Exvallis), a musician who alongside his vocalist friend Michelle (Michelle May) is working on a new album. Robbie’s friend Ange (Angela Basolis, Exvallis) accompanies the group on the trip as a stylist and is by far the least experienced with nature expeditions of the three, explicitly stated during the opening act.
Before heading off on the unfortunate journey that awaits them the group celebrates a couple of birthdays, deals with earthquakes, discusses the upcoming excursion, and does a fair amount of social drinking. During this time the character dynamics become crystal clear, though this is also here where the pacing drags since a lot of time is spent on extraneous moments that don’t add much character development due to the very surface level interactions populating the scenes. That being said these do serve to make the whole experience feel much more authentic since people are very inconsistent with recording things in reality, so there’s a trade off present that will cause mileage to vary depending on the style of found footage one prefers. As they set out on the trip there’s a large amount of music, something that typically detracts from found footage experiences due to misuse but it’s all refreshingly done diegetically in The Outwaters. The cinematography is stunning at times and there’s very few instances where camera use can be questioned, byproducts of the main character cleverly being a skilled videographer who’s far more inclined to continue filming everything when stress levels rise.
After arriving at their destination they start scouting for spots to shoot and encounter a variety of strange phenomena including equipment glitches, a seemingly infinite camera battery, a bloody axe protruding from a hilltop, weird holes in the ground that emit a bizarre noise when recorded, and constant unidentifiable noises coming from the desert around them. Things really begin to escalate when on the first night they’re awoken by violently loud thunder and notice a strange light flashing at them in the distance. This insane final act is where people’s taste will really make the difference, because once the chaos starts it doesn’t let up until the credits roll. The Outwaters boasts a borderline incoherent finale (intentionally so) that runs the gamut from deeply unsettling to completely unexplainable making for a blissfully disorienting blend of found footage, cosmic horror, and Tremors-esque creature feature that feels wholly original. The lack of any concrete explanation will have some minds running wild with theories and others wishing they had more to go on, but regardless this is a film that’s sure to linger in the mind long after it ends. You can see which side of the ground you fall on when The Outwaters slithers out later this year, and in the meantime you can dip your toes in the sand with the trailer below.