VOD film review: Outpost 11
James R | On 05, Oct 2013
Director: Anthony Woodley
Cast: Luke Healy, Billy Clarke, Joshua Mayes-Cooper, Bernard Hill
Watch Outpost 11 online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Google Play
Everyone remembers the war. You know, the war. The world one. The second one. The Second World War. In the 1940s. Against the Prussians. The Prussians and the giant spiders.
Everyone remembers the 1940s giant spider Prussian war, right?
That’s the world Outpost 11 lives in: an alternative past, where steam power still rules and a small group of Brits are stationed in the Arctic Circle, with only a radio for company.
There’s young Albert (Mayes-Cooper), who tries his hardest to follow orders. There’s man-in-charge Mason (Healy), who tries his best to keep things in order. And there’s senior officer Graham (Clarke) who tries everyone else’s patience.
It’s a neat concept and director Anthony Woodley ramps up the claustrophobia right from the opening credits. Gliding through the cramped corridors of the tiny three-room set, it’s a fantastic demonstration of the film’s intentions: a high-gloss, professional start to a tale that comfortable sits alongside more expensive productions. At the heart of the eerie hut: the Omega Machine, a giant eyeball-shaped boiler that groans and stares with a yellow glow.
So far, so strange. But when a cryptic message comes through from headquarters and warning lights start flashing for no reason, things go from odd to downright weird.
A lot of that atmosphere comes from the movie’s excellent score. Clinking, clanging and booming, the soundtrack boxes your ears in with an intimidating air, before giving way to uncomfortable silence. Joshua Mayes-Cooper does a great job of panicking, while Luke Healy’s cool, macho air gradually gives way to knowing dread. But the shell-shocked Billy Clarke takes centre stage, descending even further into psychotropic madness.
What does the message mean? Why does the Omega Machine scare Albert so much? And what is that strange lump on his hand that keeps growing?
Woodley’s surreal script solves some of the mystery, but answers most of the questions with questions of their own – or with terrifying visual effects. One stop-motion scene involving a tiny spider is skin-crawlingly scary, while an apparent physical transformation channels full-on body horror. References to God suggest we’re headed to a deep meditation on theology and machine, but the slightly disappointing final act never quite delivers on the first half’s potential. Still, Outpost 11’s confidence to stick to its own pace and themes makes this a bold horror that a young Cronenberg or Carpenter would be proud of.
“A man cannot call himself a man unless he’s been outside the box,” recites Mason with a soldierly loyalty. On the basis of his debut feature, Anthony Woodley is definitely a man. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
As frustrating as it is freaky, Outpost 11 is one war you won’t forget about.
Outpost 11 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.