Outpost Movie Review – Joe Lo Truglio Takes a Stab at Psychological Horror
Though known by television audiences of the last 30 years for his sense of humor, with his new thriller Outpost, writer/director, Joe Lo Truglio is out to prove that the trauma and lasting effects of spousal abuse are no laughing matter, but they can add up to a wild ride.
I have been a fan of Lo Truglio’s work as an actor since his days as a cast member on MTV’s sketch comedy show The State. So hearing that the comedic actor was taking a stab at psychological horror was a bit of a surprise. Little did I know that he had the goods behind the camera to deliver an experience that includes the shocks of Barbarian, the paranoia of Rosemary’s Baby and the wilderness terror of Deliverance.
Outpost focuses on the character of Kate (Beth Dover), who after suffering a brutal beating at the hands of her husband after filing a restraining order against him, impulsively seeks a place to hide in isolation as a forest ranger on a mountaintop lookout tower. But is running away from the world really the best way to deal with this brutal attack perpetrated not only on Kate’s body, but also her mind?
From the opening scene, Lo Truglio assaults the viewer with the sounds of violence against women. This may be a red flag for potential audience members who might be triggered by such disturbing aural imagery. Outpost also does not shy away from showing Kate in flashback, being beaten by her husband, so be warned.
The theme of isolation experienced by victims of domestic violence is introduced expertly through an unsettling moment in a restaurant, revealing that Kate is prone to hallucinations or at the very least, getting lost in imagined scenarios suggesting that the world is out to get her. Though she constantly insists to all who show concern that she can deal with it, it soon becomes clear that this is not the case and it’s made clear that the damaging effects of isolation were growing in Kate long before she was physically alone in the middle of nowhere.
The greatest strength of Outpost is the commitment of the cast. Ato Essandoh as Earl, the Park Ranger with a past, who is concerned from the get-go that Kate is not ready for such an assignment, is the rock of the film. Though acting as the voice of reason throughout the story, Earl also has trauma of his own that he’s working through, having faltered in his duties at that very same Outpost that Beth is soon confined to. This adds a great amount of depth to the character and Essandoh’s performance as he attempts to keep Kate on track.
Based on his past roles, the inclusion of Dylan Baker to a cast aways calls the motivation of his character into question and Lo Truglio uses that his advantage in Outpost. Baker’s Reggie is a grumpy widower who has purposely sought the isolation of mountaintop living after the death of his wife. Kate seeks him out as a refuge from the loneliness of her post, but his back and forth attitude towards engaging in a friendly relationship, leads him to be suspect in her eyes.
Of course, Beth Dover is the star of the piece, hitting the discordant notes of awkwardness in her character’s conversation with the rest of the cast with precision. What might be played for comedy in a sitcom as Kate often shares too much information, is here used to punctuate the fact that Kate is losing her ability to interact with other human beings, especially the men who populate the mountain terrain.
Whether it’s the clerk at the local general store, the pervy Ranger Dan (Dallas Roberts) or a pair of horny dude-bro hikers asking for directions, Dover manages to convey the fear and stand-offishness that would be learned behavior for a woman who had recently been attacked. It’s also revealed through one startling hallucination, that Kate has likely been abused in many forms since childhood.
Lo Truglio doesn’t get too clever with attempting to hide the fact that Kate’s mind is creating the majority of the terrifying scenarios she finds herself in. Instead the director provides so many instances of imagined attacks against Kate, that we as audience members begin to question what part of the story is actually happening at all. It’s a welcome twist on a tired trope.
The majority of Dover’s performance is spent alone on screen and that’s where the filmmaker and actor work together for maximum impact. The tension building in the mind of Kate is conveyed convincingly by the tediousness of her daily ranger routine and the boredom inherent in staring out into the lonely wilderness. The growing aggravation with her situation is punctuated by invading insects and the repeated imagery of decaying animal carcasses that litter the ground beneath the titular outpost.
When the surly, but warm hiker Bertha (Becky Ann Baker) shows up on the scene, she at first acts as a maternal friend, but soon takes on more of a Tyler Durden role, training Kate in the use of a gun in order to take control of her life. Eventually the lessons turn to discourses meant to stoke the fires of distrust for the men on the mountain, which includes a frightening visual nod to An American Werewolf In London.
When Earl decides to bring the struggling Kate down from her tower after the fallout from an incident involving a false report of fire, he is joined by his sister and Kate’s best friend, Nickie (Ta’Rea Campbell), adding to the suspense. Is Kate so forgone that she would turn on another woman? How far will she go to protect her Outpost?
The exciting and bloody climax of Outpost delivers all the violence hinted at by the premise. Kate’s attempts to defend her tower and exact justice for all of the women who have been wronged by male tormentors is presented through some very well-staged camera work, especially as the deadly action become more frantic. The wrath of the vengeful Kate, who has undergone more than a psychological transformation, is swift and vicious.
The end of Outpost will surprise you. It will leave you contemplating the meaning behind this story. It may even leave you asking for more. It is a film that demands to be seen. From the expert pacing and strong dialogue of the script, to the performances of the cast and excellent visual choices, Joe Lo Truglio has shown that he has a knack for horror as well as comedy.
Outpost releases in theaters and on demand May 19th from Gravitas Ventures.
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