Writer and Director: Joe Lo Truglio
Joe Lo Truglio’s competent horror/thriller about a woman who becomes a fire warden for a national park in Idaho has enough twists and turns to make Outpost a watchable film, though perhaps not for the squeamish. Even its improbable conclusion is convincingly played.
After being violently attacked by her male partner, Kate(Beth Dover) has applied to be a lookout in a wilderness miles away from anywhere. Sequestered in an outpost, perched on stilts above the countryside, it’s Kate’s job to look out for any sign of fire. It’s a lonely job, but she thinks that the solitude will do her good and heal her wounds. Her flashbacks to the brutal assault are surely a sign of PTSD.
At first, the loneliness doesn’t have the restorative powers that she hoped it would provide. And the few people she does have contact with are all male and all are portrayed as potential assailants. There is Deputy Ranger Dan (Dallas Roberts) who looks at her with barely repressed desire and the exasperation of his boss Earl (Ato Essandoh) seems to conceal a bitter history. Her nearest neighbour is widower Reggie (Dylan Baker) whose kindness may not quite be what it seems.
For its first half, Outpost runs like an old-fashioned woman-in-peril movie. We know it’s a good move for Kate to learn how to use an axe correctly because the genre requires that she will need to use it as a weapon before the end of the film. But when Kate becomes friends with the seasoned hiker Bertha (a very natural Becky Ann Baker), Truglio’s story surprisingly changes tact.
The landscape also appears to be against her; a swarm of flies gathers outside her fire tower window and coyotes wander hungry outside. Animal cadavers, shimmering with maggots, appear in the morning. But this is no folk horror like the Cornish Enys Man directed by Mark Jenkin where a woman, who records the weather on an otherwise inhabited island, is haunted by its turbulent history. Instead, Outpost has more in common with The Heart of Darkness and its adaptation, Apocalypse Now. Kate, like Kurtz, has gone native.
Beth Dover, who is Truglio’s wife, is a good lead and is inscrutable enough to confuse the audience a little and manages her transformations in such a way that it’s not certain whether we should root for her or not, especially given her character’s unhappy childhood. This uncertainty is interesting and it’s a shame that Truglio doesn’t play with it more.
For a low budget and for a film that, in the UK, goes straight to streaming services, Outpost is a lot better than it should be. More famous for being a comic actor in such shows as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Joe Lo Truglio’s decision to switch to horror appears to be a good move.
Outpostwill be available on Digital Download from 11th September.