Vague Visages’ Outpost review contains minor spoilers. Joe Lo Truglio’s 2022 movie features Beth Dover, Dallas Roberts and Dylan Baker. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
Although it may have seemed bizarre even a decade ago, comedic actors display good form when pivoting to directing horror movies. We saw it most recently with Zach Creggar’s thrilling Barbarian, but Jordan Peele remains perhaps the most famous and successful example with his three movies to date (Get Out, Us, and Nope), delighting fans and critics alike. Likewise, Danny McBride memorably teamed up with David Gordon Green for their modern Halloween trilogy, which is more controversial, at least among horror aficionados, but hugely successful regardless. And now we have Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Jo Lo Truglio, who — after helming an episode of the beloved sitcom alongside an installment of Wainy Days — makes his feature debut with Outpost, a shocking, discombobulating and impressively frank take on domestic violence and the ensuing recovery process that marks him as a filmmaker to watch in the future.
Beth Dover stars as Kate, a woman who’s introduced to the audience battered, bruised and notably filmed from the opposite end of a long table to emphasize how isolated she is from society at large. After finally breaking free of her abuser, Kate asks her BFF (Ta’Rea Campbell as Nickie) to pull some strings so she can escape for a few months to an isolated cabin in Idaho, where watching for forest fires will be her only concern. It’s a crazy idea but considering how crippled Kate is with PTSD — she has near constant flashbacks to the abuse, and often hallucinates about the other men she encounters attacking her — maybe getting away for a bit will be a good thing. Naturally, though, since Outpost is a horror movie, it doesn’t go smoothly.
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Lo Truglio demonstrates a great eye for detail and staging throughout Outpost, from the terrific location, which is scenic but isolated enough that it’s easy to imagine scaring yourself if you had to stay there alone, to the angles. The camera zooms out to show Kate’s initial climb up the stairs to her cabin, highlighting how big of a trek it is while also establishing a handy metaphor for the personal journey ahead. Working with cinematographer Frank Barrera, Lo Truglio consistently places the camera in unexpected places. The imagery is stunning, expansive and richly detailed, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine alum making full use of the surrounding area as well as the cabin itself.
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The director plays with the audience’s understanding of what’s real through shocking bouts of violence in places as everyday as the local mini-mart and even an outhouse. Kate’s PTSD is intense, but to paraphrase the old adage, just because she’s paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after her. Many of the men she meets aren’t necessarily a threat, including her friend’s estranged brother, played with low-key sweetness by Ato Essandoh, but several have creepy intentions. A local ranger (Dallas Roberts) lounges around openly zooming in on photos of Kate’s ass, which he took while she was crossing the parking lot in front of him, while her outwardly well-meaning neighbor’s (Dylan Baker) tea could conceivably relax her nerves or put her to sleep long enough for him to take advantage of her.
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The male characters, of which there are many, are all weird in their own unique ways, and none of them can really be trusted, but because Kate is suffering from hallucinations and can barely keep track of whether the mountain is on fire, it’s tough to tell whether she’s actually in danger. Lo Truglio, who also tackled the thorny script, demonstrates a deep understanding of the kind of bullshit women have to put up with on a daily basis when we’re just minding our own business. Typically, female writers and directors have been tasked with putting these kinds of everyday annoyances on film, so it’s incredibly heartening to see a man taking up the mantle on our behalf and doing it so eloquently.
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Lo Truglio is also ruthless with his depictions of the violence inflicted upon Kate, both real and imaginary. He doesn’t revel in it thankfully, often choosing to keep the camera slightly below the action so it’s obscured, and the focus remains solely on Kate’s suffering. Even as she begins to really lose it, Lo Truglio maintains an enormous amount of sympathy for his lead. Dover is onscreen for much of Outpost, frequently by herself, and the Orange is the New Black alum’s performance is utterly fearless, imbued with a real sense of dignity and a desperate desire to move beyond this terrible relationship so it doesn’t color the rest of her existence.
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Outpost is highly unpredictable, and as things go off the rails, Lo Truglio loses his grip ever so slightly. Fortunately, Dover is so utterly convincing, and her writer-director’s commitment to her plight — which will be immediately recognizable to female viewers regardless of the genre trappings surrounding it — is so unshakeable that it’s impossible not to get swept up. Moreover, the setting means that this would make a great double bill with the criminally underrated feminist slasher The Ranger, even if Outpost’s central metaphor about succumbing to your demons no matter how hard you try to escape them is slightly more literal.
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In his feature debut, Lo Truglio crafts a highly original and shockingly visceral take on how domestic violence affects survivors long after they’ve physically escaped their abusers. Although shaggy around the edges, Outpost is an auspicious introduction to Lo Truglio the filmmaker and suggests great things are to come for him. Based on this evidence alone, his leading lady should also have plenty more opportunities to lead a charge in the future.
Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
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Categories: 2020s, 2023 Film Reviews, 2023 Horror Reviews, Featured, Horror
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