Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – They’re Outside

My notes on They’re Outside

This British found footage folk horror movie opens with a couple of book-end pieces that showcase mini-icons of British horror – a jittery video diary entry by suicidal Penny Arnold (Emily Booth) and a reassuringly smug walk in the woods with folklore professor Richard Hill (Nicholas Vince).  Then we skip into what’s supposed to be a rough assembly of material shot for a youtube channel in which Max Spencer (Tom Clayton-Wheatley), a not-exactly-qualified therapist, treats various series psychological disorders.

His next case is Sarah Sanders (Chrissy Randall), an agoraphobic who lives in the woods near Hastings and has one obvious triggering trauma in her past, the death of her small daughter, but has come to believe in the curse of Green Eyes, a local bogeyman whose legend swirls around with other bosky English notions (some scenes are taken during the local Jack of the Green ceremony).  Max’s entire crew is his cameraperson girlfriend Nicole (Nicole Miners), against whom Sarah takes instantly – and who is soon pretty fed up with Max’s behaviour.  Warning signs are captured in the footage – knocks at the door only one person can hear, eyelike glints in the dark – and the therapy seems to anger the spirit, who manifests cruelly with reference to past losses suffered by Sarah and Max.

Directed by Airell Anthony Hayles, who also wrote, and Sam Casserly, this at first takes a collage-like approach to the found footage form, with documentary-like illustrations and interviews with Max’s parents (Jon-Paul Gates, Emma Burdon-Sutton) commenting from after the foreshadowed doom that takes up the last act … where, in a primal scene for found footage, we’re in the Endless Woods, and the unwary, arrogant sceptic has something nasty but perhaps not final happen to him.  It’s quite playful, with subliminal messages and touches of knowing humour (Booth is a hoot as a primary school teacher who used to be the coked-up presenter of a hot air balloon dating show called Love is in the Air).  It has a chilly atmosphere, and performances are mostly at a level of stretched nerves – though late in the day revelations about why Max is such a shit still don’t exactly make him a sympathetic character.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.


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