Editor's Note: The following contains spoilers for The Outwaters
I have spent decades mapping the far shores of reality. I have rarely felt fear, safe in the hands of my guides. My face, if not my name, is known in the back alleys and chop shops of Interzone. I have a reserved table at the noodle shop where the meal cries in your dead mother’s voice. I midwifed for a woman birthing a grown man. I have let my body die to become the new flesh. I have watched people go feral at a dinner party they couldn’t bring themselves to leave. I have read Sutter Kane.
When I hear that a film is “weird” or “out there” or “extreme” I usually roll my eyes. I can eat a sandwich while I watch the last act of Martyrs. I find Salo to be soothing. I like to nap to Evil Dead.
Given my proclivities, I didn’t expect The Outwaters to have much of an effect on me.
My expectation was way off base.
The film consists of the video on three memory cards found in the Mojave Desert. On those cards we see Robbie, Scott, Angela and Michelle. They are travelling into the desert to film a music video.
The first hour or so of the film is actually sort of boring, but in a n interesting way. We watch the group hiking, camping, filming the video. We get some insight into the character of each person. Mostly though, we experience the atmosphere of the desert. This desert is almost hallucinatory. There is something just slightly off at all times. We (and the characters) hear strange noises. There is a figure in red that is caught by the camera, but not by the others. Thunder seems to echo around everywhere. One night there is a flash of light like ball lightning, but different. Maybe it’s a crack in reality.
Once there was an ax.
In the night, as the air fills with animal sounds, Robbie wanders from camp and is attacked by a man with an ax. With a head wound and disoriented, he returns to the camp. the camera cuts to Robbie running through the desert as the two girls scream and plead for their lives. He encounters Scott and Angela, both soaked in blood. He runs and hides. The next morning, he find that there are terrifying worm creatures everywhere. The tents are covered in blood. Everyone is missing.
Eventually (what comes next counts as spoilers, but really, I don’t feel like this movie can be spoiled) he finds his friends. Or rather, he finds his friends’ heads on pikes. He cuts off his penis and discards it, then disembowels himself before going for a walk.
The Outwaters leaves us with more questions than answers. In fact, it leaves us with no answers at all. What exactly happened? I like to think that the cracking, flashing light was a rip in reality and that the characters slipped into a alternate universe not unlike the one that The Event Horizon travelled to in that classic film. I have no evidence for this and your interpretation is likely as valid as my own.
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Crossposted to This Couch Thing