Outcast Review

Outcast is an excellent modern British horror that is out on DVD…

The Film

From it’s early days with Universal classics like the original Frankenstein, cinematic horror has often offered sympathy for outsiders. Whether this has been the oppressed monster, the bullied creature or those who find themselves on the margins and fighting back, there’s plenty of unlikely heroes to be found in the genre of Carrie or the Baron’s creation.Carrying on in this tradition, Colm McCarthy’s Outcast sets horror loose on the underclass of an unnamed Scottish council estate. A travelling mother, played by Red Road’s Kate Dickie, and her teenage son Fergal are hiding themselves in the midst of the run-down tower blocks from the hunt of lupine looking James Nesbitt and an officious housing officer. This, though, is not a simple story of oppressed unfortunates but one of witchcraft and a cursed nature.

The main narrative threads in and out of the developing romance between Fergal and the part Romany Petronella. Petronella’s family is similarly trammelled by circumstance with a drunken mum, and absent dad, and a brother with a learning disability. In fact, parental authority is clearly in crisis throughout with Dickie unable to protect her son and Petronella forced to substitute for her alcoholic mum.Imaginatively shot with great use of depressed social vistas on the shabby estate, Outcast shifts carefully between a gritty and a supernatural aesthetic. The world of the characters mixes the gangs of the estates with the tribes of the leading characters, and a primal superstition underscores the post industrial aspect of the visuals.

The director is a veteran of uninspiring TV series and his cast are familiar faces mainly drawn from the same arena. This though is not the prelude to criticisms of limited ambitions or mediocre talent, as Outcast pulls off the trick of achieving its aspirations and transcending its resources. In fact, it represents a fine attempt at a modern Celtic horror.Most surprising for me was discovering a desperation and passion in the acting of James Nesbitt that I had assumed was way beyond his powers. For all the nonsense of hair transplants and bad adverts, his role as a kind of bad angel here is a revelation for those who thought him a limited comic actor. Like the rest of the cast, he feels authentic and committed to an impressive directorial vision.

Outcast is a wonderful first feature and evidence again that our film industry can get beyond flogging the dead horse of our stammering past. It should please those who like an authentic feeling British movie and engross those who welcome an imaginative take on modern horror.

Technical Specs

Bar a couple of trailers at the start of the disc and the actual trailer of the main feature, there are no extras included on this single layer region B coded disc. The transfer retains a light grain and copes well with a very dark and grey film. The image offers a lot of detail, well judged flesh tones and strong contrast. Edges are natural and the appearance is very film-like.A single 5.1 mix with a strong bit-rate offers good atmospherics with a sensible mixing of effects and dialogue across the channels. Clear and well separated, dialogue is easy to follow and the bass is more than up to the task of the ominous soundtrack. Optional English subtitles are offered as well.


A striking and interesting British horror gets a good transfer. Ignore the suspicion that this might be a TV movie with delusions as Outcast is much much better than that.

John White

Updated: Jan 15, 2011

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