Written and directed by Sam Casserly & Airell Anthony Hayles
Starring Tom Wheatly, Christine Randall, Nicole Miners
The found footage sub-genre is played out. After the massive and groundbreaking success of 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project”, horror cinema was flooded with filmmakers trying to capture the magic of that film (and perhaps save a little money) by using their own cameras, unknown casts, and natural locations to tell small tales of terror with next to no crew.
There are a few gems, to be sure, but most of the found footage films were pale imitations with lesser scripts.
It has been a while since this type of horror film has been done. Save for the “Paranormal Activity” series, there aren’t too many made anymore.
Now comes the British horror film, “They’re Outside”, a new entry in the found footage genre with a folk horror twist.
Making a documentary on agorophobia, a pop culture psychologist (Tom Wheatley) and his girlfriend (Nicole Miners) head to a remote cottage in Sussex to interview a recluse named Sarah (Chrissy Randall).
Max and Nicole learn of the local legend of a boogeyman called Green Eyes; a folklore creature that is said to exist in the woods.
Sarah is deeply strange and while they are in her house, Max and Nicole capture spooky footage (something knocking at the door, glowing eyes in the dark, etc.). The presence of the two outsiders seems anger whatever exists in the woods.
Directed and written by Airell Anthony Hayles and Sam Casserly, this is their debut feature film.
The two filmmakers try to ground their tale with an interesting story. This is a film within a film that begins with the mysterious suicide of a TV host (Emily Booth). Sarah is her friend. It is in the found footage where the story of Max, Sarah, and Nicole takes place. It is where we learn what happened Sarah’s friend and her daughter. Their story is a dark tale of haunting folklore.
The film does not have a lot going for it, as the filmmakers allow for too many bumps in their road. Hayles and Casserly are going for the found footage look but the film is too clean. Shot digitally, the pictures are crisp and the shots are framed too deliberately to seem natural.
Their characters are not well developed, and lead character Max is a most unlikeable cad. Making him to be such a manipulative asshole to everyone he encounters was a mistake, as he carries the film. As an audience, we have no one to root for against the supposed monster.
Where the buildup in films such as “The Blair Witch Project” and the “Paranormal Activity” series are successful in setting up the terrors that come full blast in their finales, this film is too aloof and a bit all over the place to keep one on edge. The evil in the woods is spoken about but the directors fail to achieve a proper atmosphere, nor can they seem to grasp the importance of a rollercoaster-like build up that will grab hold of the audience until the finale.
Another demerit is the unnecessary musical score. For the found footage style, a score is not needed and the use of natural (and unnatural) sound design is a big part of the success of the sub genre.
By the end, the film achieves no real scares. The setup is too long and the finale becomes a frustratingly blatant and oh-so-pale imitation of “The Blair Witch Project”. It should be labeled a ripoff, but I want to be kind.
2021 has been a good year for the horror genre and this Halloween season there have been many good creepers released.
“They’re Outside” is not one of them.
NR, 83 Minutes, The Haunted Cinema