The buzz around Robbie Banfitch’s film is frustratingly what happens when a film community longs so hopelessly for something different that it will literally attach itself to ANYTHING that comes along that even scratches the surface of experimental. The Outwaters is a tedious exercise in arthouse experimentation that left me drifting somewhere between a fugue-like boredom and the exhaustion of listening to an overactive toddler talk about their imaginary pet giraffe for two hours.
The film introduces us to 4 twenty somethings who may or may not be part of a band who decide they are going to the desert to maybe, possibly, sorta shoot a music video? Yeah, this is the beginning of the long road to not caring fuck-all about ANYTHING that happens during the Outwaters’ absurdly long running time that magically manages to last longer than both Avatar films, a root canal at a budget mall dentist practice and a Catholic wedding ceremony. THAT unfortunately is the reality of The Outwaters, a film that is becoming more of a cliquey “when ya get it, ya get it” fraternal rite of midnight movie passage than anything else. Unfortunately that is ALSO where the film’s novelty wears off. With a troupe of poorly written characters we are instantly doomed to either immediately forget them or wish them harm, the former being the more immediate answer. Oh, wait… I was discussing the plot, correct? I digress.
So we meet our characters: a dreamy free spirited minstrel who wears flowy dresses and repeatedly cries over hearing herself sing (not making this up), two brothers (?) who can be found at whatever pop-up art show that sits between the place that sells over-priced bourbon and charcuterie boards to every patron with a “clean fade” (and that’s all of em folks) and the coffee house that has live music till 9 on Saturdays. They spend a lot of time just staring off into the distance and listening to music, I’m guessing also all the while holding back the urge to cry. Oh, there’s a girl that undoubtedly has a job, because she feels the need to zoom them from it: “hey ,what are you guys doing?” “… oh the usual… ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.” (which is foreshadowing for the next hour and a half, btw). Then uh (I think I’m just going to make the rest up, actually)… they uh… find out the only way to get the one girl to quit crying is to go all “Doors” in the desert and dance in front of the sun because that’s how you get back-lit… and uh then it starts thundering and then everyone runs around bloody in the desert with a pen light looking at rocks.
There ARE, initially some interesting visuals in the Outwaters as well as some intriguing sound design, but both are lost in the way each are played ad nauseam throughout the film, which begins to feel like a best hits album from Spirit of Halloween. We see the same sort of visuals rotate out to a climax that might have been shocking 40 years ago, but now just seems trite and uninspired. It’s a movie that feels purposeful, rather than accidental and that’s too bad, because admitting that this was contrived and executed via any sort of plan with a roadmap is worlds worse than the alternative. Don’t get me wrong, there are worse movies than The Outwaters… I just can’t think of any right now. NOT RECOMMENDED.