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John’s Horror Corner: Outcast (2010), this Irish occult horror weaves dark urban mysticism without sensationalized magical effects, and somehow gets away with it splendidly.

November 13, 2021

MY CALL:  This is a film I somehow hadn’t heard of until this year (11 years after its release), and truth be told it’s nothing wowing in the conventional sense—yet I find it outstanding. It doesn’t have the coolest monster or the wildest effects or the most clever twist. But its depiction of dark urban mysticism and occult rituals with essentially zero special effects (really just one “holy crap” monster in a couple scenes) is an unexpected enchanting delight, even if woefully grim in atmosphere. The acting is great, the writing is simple yet sound, and I was constantly shocked at how well-executed everything was. Please see this!

MORE MOVIES LIKE Outcast: For more Irish horror movies check out Leprechaun Origins (2014), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Leprechaun (1993), Rawhead Rex (1986), Isolation (2005), Grabbers (2012), Cherry Tree (2015), Holidays (2016; St. Patrick’s Day segment), The Hallow (2015), Hole in the Ground (2019) and Boys from County Hell (2020).

Very early this film casts its dark spell and invokes a grim atmosphere of mysticism as we witness a man Cathal (James Nesbitt; The Hobbit trilogy) receiving elaborate occult tattoos to imbue him with magic, and a woman Mary (Kate Dickie; Game of Thrones, The Witch, Prometheus) performing focused work in bloodletting and blood-painting rituals. The man is being empowered so he may kill a “dangerous” boy; the woman practices her spellcraft to protect her teenage son. There is nudity, but the occult practices involved are paid serious respect in that the nudity is never gratuitous. I’ve gotta’ be honest, this was a wonderful experience for me seeing this film open in the way that it did, with such understated execution in visual style.

What follows is a hunt; Cathal the hunter, Mary and her son Fergal the hunted. Both use magical rituals to seek and evade one another. Cathal, in some ways the side of “good” in this story but also the monster antagonist, is explained to have become a powerful entity. But we’re not told so early on just “how” that is, and we know that his magical gifts are not necessarily permanent unless he completes his charge. Fergal has been deemed “dangerous” by occult elders, but we haven’t any clue as to why or how. Truly, either side could be equally considered the good or bad. So rather than rooting for one or the other, I found myself captivated by the eventual (hopeful) revelation.

I’m normally much more revealing in my reviews, but this is just one of those films where almost any explanation will spoil and, thankfully, the trailer didn’t reveal much. If anything, the trailer presents a less impressive movie than that I had the pleasure of viewing. My one submission (and it’s clearly hinted on the movie poster): there is a shiny-skinned hulking troll of a creature with an appetite for flesh and a gigantic dangling… yup. But like the aforementioned nudity, this visual honestly makes sense, receives little focus or time in frame, and rather fits the monstrosity in question. Also, watch out for a young Karen Gillan (Oculus, The Big Short, Gunpowder Milkshake).

This film is much more thoughtfully written and crafted than I would have expected considering I hadn’t heard of it until basically now (2021; thanks to a recent article on Director Colm McCarthy (who went on to helm The Girl with All the Gifts) weaves a sort of dark urban mysticism presented with all the occult gravity but none of the sensationalized magical effects, and he somehow gets away with it splendidly. I mean, it was almost a relief to enjoy something about “magic” without ever really seeing any visual depictions of thereof. It’s surprisingly grounded given the themes involved, and I think it should be celebrated. So please heed my recommendation and try this sleeper hidden gem out for yourself.

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