0 13 min 12 mths

In, what is without a doubt, the darkest chapter in the Smokey the Bear mission to prevent forest fires, Outpost is a psychological thriller/horror movie that delves into the dark and disconcerting world of domestic violence and the destruction it causes.

Directed by Joe Lo Truglio, known for his comedic roles in shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and movies like Superbad and Role Models (“jingle-jangle”), the film showcases his ability to tap into a different genre and adds to the recent migration, perhaps exodus, of comedians moving into the realm of horror following in the footsteps of fellow Wet Hot American Summer alum Elizabeth Banks, who directed the tongue-in-cheek Cocaine Bear, former improv/sketch comedian Zach Cregger (Whitest Kids You Know) who directed Barbarian, and the granddaddy of the transpersonal ascension from comedy to horror, Jordan Peele, proving that the one universal truth in comedy may be that all comedians harbor evil, wicked hearts.

Joe Lo Truglio from WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER circa 2001. Look into those eyes and tell me he isn’t seething with rage.

Playing on themes of isolation and madness showcased in horror classics like The Shining, The Lighthouse, and The Evil Dead, Outpost revolves around Kate, played by Beth Dover who’s best known as Linda Ferguson on Orange Is the New Black and is married to Lo Truglio. Kate is an abused woman seeking solace and healing by taking up a job as a fire lookout in the mountains of northern Idaho. Hoping that the peaceful solitude will help her overcome her traumatic past, Kate soon finds herself confronted by her PTSD and the overwhelming isolation of her new environment. As her mental state deteriorates, she discovers a darker force lurking within herself and the mountain outpost, and she loses what’s left of her sanity in the twisted fight for her survival.

Lo Truglio’s film skillfully tackles the sensitive subject matter of domestic violence and its impact. His direction is praised by critics, with many acknowledging his potential as a filmmaker, but the praise Outpost has received has been a bit backhanded. A lot of critics looked at this film as a great “first-attempt” with the “promise” of better films down the road once Lo Truglio learns more about editing. In fact, lots of complaints were leveled at the editing and camera work. Clearly none of these people watched the first Hunger Games; A lot of the “shaky” camera work in Outpost was done to capture the intensity and the shock of the violence that traumatized Kate without revealing it in graphic detail. This editing around the totality of the damage inflicted onto Kate could be the mark of a skillful director not wanting to glorify abuse towards women … OR Joe Lo Truglio just didn’t want to see his wife get mercilessly beaten on screen for longer than he had to. Either way, the film’s shocking and frank portrayal of the subject matter leaves a lasting impression and, without it, Kate’s descent into madness lacks substance.

The movie subverts the theme of isolation and madness, much like other films such as The Shining and The Lighthouse. However, Outpost goes beyond that by offering a deeper message about the constant fear women face from male predators. Kate’s traumatic past haunts her in hallucinations and vivid nightmares, creating a sense of paranoia and unease throughout the film. You start to see things from Kate’s perspective, and you begin to distrust everyone on screen more and more as the story unfolds. Every interaction becomes a potential threat, whether it’s the pervy Ranger Dan played by Dallas Roberts (My Friend Dahmer, 3:10 to Yuma) or the creepy, bi-sexual stoners camping on the mountain.

There’s obviously a thematic connection to nature and the wilderness, and the general concept is reminiscent of the video game Firewatch. However, Outpost sets itself apart by presenting a different kind of mystery and struggle, pitting woman against nature. Even the seasoned mountain man, Reggie (played by Dylan Baker who’s best known in horror circles for his role in Trick ‘r Treat), who initially appears as a helpful guide, eventually has his true predatory nature revealed in the film’s climatic twist.

This is also Dylan Baker in one of his first onscreen appearances in PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES (1987) as the deranged hillbilly with a bizarre sinus condition and a penchant for making his wife do the heavy lifting.

The relationship between Reggie and Kate continues to build on the film’s metaphor for the underlying danger women face from men. Reggie’s acts of protection towards Kate, teaching her how to chop wood, and offering her herbal tea, are merely a facade to secure his own more sinister interests. Throughout the first half of the film, Kate is not only having wildly terrifying hallucinations of her attacker, but we see how the men around her gaze at her the way hyenas scowl at baby wildebeests before charging in for the kill.

Kate’s always being misdirected and leered at by the men around her, and, unrelated to her PTSD, she is extremely clumsy. She falls down when walking up the small knoll to the outpost when she first arrives, she drops her keys in a pit, she drops her phone from the tower, she throws her garbage into a bear trap, she knocks her coffee cup off the outpost ledge, and what’s even more unsettling is how many times Kate comes face to face with dead animals. All of this points to Kate being prey. She lives in fear and confusion, and, at any minute, could be devoured by the predators around her until she meets Bertha (played by Becky Ann Baker, best known for her roles as Jean Weir on the short-lived, well-regarded NBC dramedy Freaks and Geeks and Loreen Horvath on the HBO series Girls). At first, Bertha comes across not just as a friendly hiker, but as a healing guide helping Kate on her journey of self-sufficiency, and empowerment.

“Aim small, mis small.” – Nathan Martin in THE PATRIOT (2000)

Bertha’s training transforms Kate from prey to predator, as she learns to hunt and survive. However, a twist redolent of The Shining and The Evil Dead reveals (SPOILERS AHEAD) that Bertha is actually the vengeful spirit of Reggie’s deceased wife, seeking revenge against him and the other conspiring men on the mountain looking to take a bite out of Kate. The film takes a savage turn as Kate goes from a helpless and traumatized victim to an unhinged, ax-wielding force of retribution.

My real life husband Dylan Baker, who plays Reggie, actually murdered me in 2006, and this film is a way for him to relive it all because he gets off on murder. He thinks no one will ever convict him because he found a Becky Ann Barker look-alike. Help me! – Ghost of “The Real” Becky Ann Barker

In the film’s deranged ending, Kate becomes the predator, resorting to cannibalism and hunting down her victims. The once-helpless woman has transformed into a savage killer, evoking some kind of amalgam of Rambo and Jack Torrance. The final revelation of her month-long spree of eating people is intended to shock and horrify us, but, given the paranoia and trauma-induced hallucinations Kate was experiencing at the start of her journey, the film presents her less as an anti-hero at the end and more like an unhinged maniac hellbent on revenge. She has let the beast in and has gone full boar… she fucking ate people.

Earl (played by Ato Essandoh of Jason Bourne and Garden State) is the head ranger for the Firewatch and Kate’s boss, and he seems to be the only man in the film just trying to do his job as a park ranger to prevent forest fires. Earl did not exercise his best judgment as a leader/manager when taking his daughter’s recommendation to hire Kate. Kate needed EXTENSIVE psychotherapy, but Earl, who loves his daughter, tried to help a friend of the family, and it couldn’t have gone worse.

Below are a couple of action shots of Earl choking his employee with a steel chain.

“Fuck up my career and I’ll choke you with chains you crazy b*tch!” – Earl, Head Ranger, Idaho Parks Department

I can’t imagine what his performance review is going to be like with the head of the parks commission:

“So, the woman you hired for the fire watch post … she became a kill-crazy, ax wielding cannibal? And, upon discovering the murder scene, instead of calling the authorities, you decided to choke her with a steel chain?”

Earl: “Yes, ma’am, that’s the long and short of it.”

Head of the Parks Commission: “And is she dead?”

Earl: “I don’t know. I used the same chains to lock her in the tower and got the fuck out of there.”

I’ll admit that the twist that occurs involving the spirit of Reggie’s wife turning Kate into a killer, while unsettling, left me more than a little confused. It feels as though it happens too late in the story. It’s like your first time watching From Dusk til Dawn—you watch the crime heist Tarantino half of the movie and then get completely caught off guard by the vampire blood bath that takes place in the middle of the film.  Outpost would have had more of a horror impact if the switch from psychological thriller to gruesome, ghostly influenced kill spree had happened earlier in the story.

With all that said, Outpost offers a chilling and thought-provoking narrative that sheds light on the experiences of abused women and the lasting impact of trauma, but I kind of wish it gave them a hero instead of a maniac cannibal, but perhaps that’s the hero women’s rights need right now? I mean, the first cannibal hero that came to my mind was Detective John McClane from Die Hard.

Also, not to spoil the last Rambo movie, but Rambo cuts out a dude’s heart, ripping it out of the guy’s chest with his bare hands, so, the more I think about it, maybe Kate is a savage hero after all. All the men she ate were pieces of shit and even her male boss felt the need to choke her to death with a chain. By the way, I can’t get past Earl choking Kate with a chain. Earl MADE THE CHOICE to choke Kate with a chain twice. After the first chain choke, which arguably could have been in self-defense, he was free and clear of her and could have A.) called the authorities, B.) got the hell off the tower, or C.) restrained Kate with the chain until the authorities arrived, but Earl said, “fuck it,” and attempted to double down on choking her to death with chains as hard as he could.

I want a goddamn rematch. Earl is the final girl and Kate is fucking Jason Vorhees who funnels her savage strength from the cursed outpost tower. She’ll put out some fires WITH THE BLOOD OF HER ENEMIES!! I want her to kill a whole army of cops and park rangers who rush to the mountain to apprehend her, and I want it to connect to Cocaine Bear and the Wet Hot American Summer universe! Joe Lo Truglio, if you see this review, catch me on MySpace where we can gingerly touch tips to pen the second installment of Outpost 2: Out for Blood.