One of the fantastic things about FrightFest over the years has been the festival’s commitment to new talent. This year, just as in previous years, the festival had no shortage of new and exciting ideas. Including They’re Outside from British directors Airell Anthony Hayles and Sam Casserly. A film that combines the classic ‘found footage’ format of ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ with Pagan traditions and folklore. The result of which is a dark and foreboding fairy tale that encapsulates the creative freedom of the YouTube generation.
I am sure I am not the only one who has spent hours searching through YouTube’s cavern of creations. More often than not stumbling on a few homemade gems by accident, from comedy to cooking shows and ghostly expeditions. Each video a tasty morsel with which to while away the hours. The short and snappy homemade creativity laced with the exuberant energy of young people taking their first steps in media production.
But, what if that carefree exploration of life led you into a darker world of horror? And what if, your own stubborn belief in science precluded you from accepting that somethings in our world cannot be explained or dismissed? These questions form the core structure of They’re Outside. As amateur online psychologist Max (Tom Clayton-Wheatley), sets himself a challenge that goes far beyond the realms of his understanding. His mission, to cure Sarah (Chrissy Randall) of her agoraphobia in just ten days, while filming the progress for his eager online viewers. However, appearances can be deceptive, and denial can prove deadly, as psychology meets folklore in the woods of East Sussex.
Shot on a very small budget, the YouTube inspired design and cinematography works well in achieving a sense of documentary-like realness. At the same time taking clear inspiration from BBC’s Ghost Watch in 1992 and A Warning to the Curious (1972). Meanwhile, folklore threads neatly through proceedings, inspired by ‘The Green Man’ legend. But, it is also here where They’re Outside stumbles, missing a prime opportunity to create something uniquely different. After all, the ‘Green Man’ legend is a part of British folklore relatively untouched in horror. With the notable exception of The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982) and his links to the pub name in The Wicker Man (1973). Therefore, more focus on the folklore at hand could have elevated They’re Outside beyond the typical ‘found footage’ horror format.
But, despite this, They’re Outside does manage to create moments of delicious tension. From the first meeting of Max and his subject, through to the darkness of the final act. With both performances, direction and design strong enough to carry the audience through. And while the momentum may become somewhat lost mid-way through the story. There is enough tension at play to keep the viewer’s eyes fixed to the screen. And we will undoubtedly be watching the careers of both Airell Anthony Hayles and Sam Casserly with interest. With both directors, sure to go onto bigger things in the coming years.
The world premiere of They’re Outside is taking place at FrightFest 2020 on Saturday, 29th August at 7 pm on the Horror Channel Screen as part of the New Blood strand.
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