★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Robbie Banfitch
Strap yourself in for one of the wildest found footage horror cinema rides in recent memory when you settle in to watch The Outwaters (2022). You won’t be settled at all once the madness gets underway. Members of a rock band and a makeup artist friend head out into the desert to film a music video, but what they encounter there leads to madness and an absolutely insane, gore-filled third act. Robbie Zagorac (writer/director Robbie Banfitch, who also shot, edited, and did sound design and special effects) heads up a group of people who find themselves at odds with a terrifying entity. Hopefully it’s not too much of a giveaway to let readers know that The Outwaters is a creature feature, but it is much more than that. This thing in the remote desert has a way of getting into people’s heads and what happens then is a mind-jarring journey that must be seen to be believed — and perhaps “experienced” is a better word choice than “seen” here. Before the striking and unsettling visuals kick in, Banfitch does a great job of introducing viewers to the group of friends, all of whom are likable characters, which makes their fate all the harder to watch unfold. The Outwaters is a trippy excursion into a hellish world, and one that will likely linger in viewers’ minds for some time afterward.
The Zand Order
★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Sarah Goras Peterson
Although The Zand Order does an admirable job of presenting a mother’s grief over her murdered child and the lengths she will go to expose those she believed were responsible, the film falls into the trap of having its lead characters hate each other, turning even the mother into a less-than-sympathetic protagonist and giving viewers no one to truly root for. Morgan Foster (Anna Talakkotur) hires documentary filmmaker Yessica Underhill (Laura Stetman) and professional tracker Vex Crawford (Justine Renee) to accompany her into the woods and expose a mysterious cult that she thinks murdered her young daughter. Writer/director Sarah Goras Peterson follows many of the tropes of the sylvan found-footage variety, from weird noises outside the tent to found objects meant for the main characters to discover and be freaked out by. The result is a film that doesn’t deliver much new in the found footage/forest/cult horror subgenres, but its cast members deliver spirited performances and Peterson keeps events moving at a steady clip, kicking off action earlier than in most found-footage features.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
The Outwaters and The Zand Order screened as part of Unnamed Footage Festival, which took place March 17–20, 2022 in San Francisco, California.