OUTPOST *** USA 2022 Dir: Joe Lo Truglio. 88 mins
Writer-director Joe Lo Truglio is best known for his comic work, including WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and a long-running stint as Charles Boyle in TV’s BROOKLYN NINE-NINE. Here he essays a thriller about PTSD not dissimilar at times to Leigh Whannell’s excellent take on THE INVISIBLE MAN.
Beth Dover, his real-life wife, portrays a woman physically and emotionally scarred by a brutal attack, taking refuge in a job at a remote outpost in the mountains of North Idaho. Her job involves scoping the area for forest fires from a watchtower and monitoring rainfall / humidity. Her trauma manifests itself in frequent, vividly realised visions of intimidating menfolk at every turn – some she imagines her assaulting her without provocation.
The notion of an isolating three-month stint (complete with onscreen date stamps capturing the passage of time) as the basis for a crack-up thriller nods heavily to THE SHINING. Lo Truglio falls back on Kubrick-like angles, a nightmare vision of a rotting hag (a la Room 237) and a climactic scene involving an axe-wielding maniac hacking at a door. The central concept, pivoting around nightmarish encounters with men relating to her earlier experiences, has elements of Alex Garlands’ far more ambitious (and remarkable) MEN. The male characters veer from casual perves to outright weirdos (naked guy in an outhouse) to Dylan Baker’s seemingly nice, helpful widower – who has been in the mountains for 20 years. Some are merely patronising, lacking faith in her doing the job for a sustained period and disbelieving her claims of danger.
It’s well acted, particularly by Baker and a convincingly fracturing, fraught Dover – and the backdrop is visually spectacular. There’s a pleasing interlude in which Dover befriends a friendly female hiker, and Lo Truglio successfully sustains the tension. The themes, however, have been executed with more conviction, depth and intensity elsewhere.
Review by Steven West