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(Screened at the 2013 Raindance Film Festival)
“Outpost 11” is a strange one. Marking the feature debut of British writer director Anthony Woodley, the film has been pushed as a horror, and as recalling John Carpenter’s classic “The Thing” and the early works of David Cronenberg. This, to an extent, does it a disservice, as it’s really much more of an eclectic offering, set in an alternative, unspecified World War II era past with Europe locked in combat with the ‘Prussian war machine’.
The film follows three soldiers stationed in an isolated listening post deep in the arctic, charged with monitoring enemy transmissions and maintaining a mysterious device called the omega machine. To pass the time, Commander Mason (Luke Healy, “100 Degree Below Zero”) hunts in the wilderness, while stern veteran Graham (Billy Clarke, “Hunger”) torments new recruit Albert (Joshua Mayes-Cooper). Their dull peace is shattered one day when a warning light starts flashing, indicating that they’re under attack, despite there being no sign of any enemy troops. Understandably disconcerted and confused by a cryptic message from HQ, the three try to figure out what’s going on, while experiencing increasingly bizarre visions.
“Outpost 11” is a film which will probably divide genre viewers, and to be honest, anyone expecting full-on horror will likely be a bit baffled. It doesn’t take long to realise that Woodley is taking things in a different and more imaginative direction, with the three soldiers each being pretty oddball types right from the beginning and with the weirdness escalating quickly. For those who buy into its quirkiness, the film has a lot to offer in this regard, with some genuinely creative ideas and developments, in particular its entertainingly outlandish obsession with spiders. Without wishing to give anything away, it should be pointed out that this is the kind of film where very little is actually explained, Woodley leaving things deliberately, though playfully obscure, and in a manner which is fun rather than frustrating. The ending in particular is likely to raise a smile or leave viewers scratching their heads, though either way, it’s certainly evidence of a level of ambition not often seen in low budget genre film making – something definitely to be applauded.
Whatever viewers take from the plot, there’s no denying that Woodley has done a very solid job as director, making great use of what was obviously a limited budget. Despite mainly taking place in the one location and essentially in just a couple of rooms, the film has a distinctive look and impressive visuals, Woodley managed to drum up a suitably unsettling atmosphere throughout, using a sense of the awkwardly theatrical to build suspense. The sound design is similarly effective, and though the special effects can be a bit variable, overall the film has a very enjoyable and professional feel. Though it never gets nasty, it does have enough moments of the grotesque and creepy to help hold the interest, and while to call it Cronenbergian would definitely be going too far, it manages a few icky jolts here and there.
Though perhaps a little too abstract and out there for its own good, “Outpost 11” is an enjoyable piece of kook, or at least it will be for some. There’s no denying that the imaginative Anthony Woodley has made a highly original debut, and that he’s a director very much to keep an eye on, especially once he gets his hands on a bigger budget.
Anthony Woodley (director) / Anthony Woodley (screenplay)
CAST: Billy Clarke … Graham
Luke Healy … Mason
Bernard Hill … Cranleigh
Joshua Mayes-Cooper … Albert
Graham Till … General Lord Hall