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THEY’RE OUTSIDE (2020)
Directed by Sam Casserly, Airell Anthony Hayles.
Written by Airell Anthony Hayles.
Starring Tom Wheatley, Christine Randall, Emily Booth, Nicole Miners, Emma Burdon-Sutton, Nicholas Vince, Jon-Paul Gates, Brad Moore, Rob Craine
YouTube star and amateur psychologist Max (Tom Wheatley) brings his girlfriend/producer/camerawoman Nicole (Nicole Miners) to Ireland to help Sarah (Christine Randall), an agoraphobic woman who hasn’t stepped outside since the death of her daughter. Sarah’s place just happens to be on the edge of a forest haunted by a local legend known as the Green Man. As Max attempts to cure Sarah from her phobia, it becomes uncertain that going outside is the safest thing to do.
This found footager comes in a little late for the found footage craze that has died off recently, but ties into the cult and folklore style films that have come into vogue recently. Cult and conspiracy films do seem to be on the rise as a reflection of the tribalism that is going on in today’s political and social societies. It makes sense that these groups, fueled by the inundation of horror stories about homegrown ANTIFA and Alt-Right groups and the like, that there is a rise in that kind of paranoia in horror today. Though it’s not entirely original, as these small town horror/folklore style films have been popular since THE WICKER MAN came out in ’73. There has definitely been a rise in this type of horror film where a small group is committed thoroughly to some kind of wicked cause and willing to destroy any who won’t convert to their cause. But enough real world commentary, what about THEY’RE INSIDE?
Shot in a documentary style format, where some portions of the film are produced with sound and some happen in a more immediate sense, capturing the scares and action as they happen, THEY’RE INSIDE is decently made. Things look authentically amateur—like an actual YouTube show, though I doubt no matter how popular Max is on YouTube, he had the funding to travel the world to make house calls. Still, I guess a trip from the England to Ireland isn’t that giant a trek.
Most of the cast is ok. Tom Wheatley makes for a decent narcissistic YouTuber who thinks he can save the world with his charm. He’s not necessarily a likable protagonist as he really is only thinking about the popularity of his channel and isn’t above cheating on his girlfriend with Sarah the first chance they’re alone. It’s also pretty shallow that Max replaces Nicole almost immediately when Nicole finds out about his indiscretion and leaves. Max doesn’t even seem to care and there’s a suggestion that he continues to sleep with Sarah while still attempting to cure her. The most ethical psychologist, Max is not. Still, he is a decent actor through it all. Christine Randall is also pretty solid. She looks a lot like a combination between Jocelyn Donahue and Milana Vayntrub and shows a decent range as the agoraphobic Sarah. She’s much more of a victim here than anything else. First of the rough hand she was dealt in life and then from being exploited by Max. The complex and ethically muddy relationship between Max and Sarah makes for some surprisingly sophisticated drama.
The problem is that the myth of the Green Man is kind of a mess. It’s a folklore legend that doesn’t really have a lot to do with Sarah’s agoraphobia. There’s a lot going on in the latter half. They establish some folklore and legends, then establish some kind of ghost of Sarah’s daughter attempting to connect with Sarah, and then some kind of weird spiritualistic connection to Max’s past. It’s all over the place and if you sit down and think it through, it doesn’t make any sense.
It all culminates with Max and Sarah getting lost in the woods itself and basically finding the Green Man. This is not really a spoiler as THEY’RE OUTSIDE is basically a relocating and retelling of BLAIR WITCH PROJECT with the actors describing the fate of everyone who enters the woods and then acting the exact same thing out in the last act. THEY’RE OUTSIDE uses acting, atmosphere, and some urban legend well, but ultimately fails to land the scares it promises.