Flawed But Worthy: Outcast (2010)

Nothing years of therapy can’t cure.

Like the following scene, which is both confusing and almost unbearably uncomfortable to watch. Upon his return, Mary confronts Fergal, and in a monologue that is equal parts borderline incestuous and cruel, compares his sexual arousal, in intimate detail, to how she felt on the night he was conceived…and how that one night ruined her life. Then, for the coup de grâce, she sneers at his erection. It’s a pretty vile scene, honestly, but it is gut-wrenchingly effective. Though afterwards, you might have to fight the urge not to Silkwood-scrub the filth away.

Far less traumatic is the following scene, which is a psychic battle between Cathal and Mary–both nude, chanting slowly at first, and then more fervently, tightly connected, completely focused on each other, the chanting and effort building in intensity, perfectly mirroring Mary’s description of their night together, until they both reach a “climax”…with Mary only barely winning, eyes bleeding from the effort. MB pointed out to me that somehow, Dickie and Nesbitt are able to share electrifying chemistry while not even being in the same place. It’s a stunning scene, full of angst and desperation and such deep raw hatred that it is almost sexual.

It isn’t clear whether Mary is the victor because she has a more to lose than Cathal has to gain or if it is another example of Cathal not having the character to win, but, predictably, Cathal pitches a full-on, nekkid man-boy tantrum.

Petronella’s wastrel mother comes back and sends Toma outside in order to get a proper drunk on. Disgusted, Petronella begins packing a “fuck this” bag. In a poignant moment, she picks up a framed photo of her mother and presumably, her father. Her mother is younger, surprisingly attractive (liquor does not do a body good) and appears radiantly happy, as does her father. While Petronella never mentions her father, it isn’t clear whether he has died or just fucked off, but within that one moment, it is obvious that his absence has devastated the family.

One of the sub-themes of Outcast is that except for Liam, every character is fatherless–not only the principal characters, but that McCarthy is also including the broken families who typically find themselves living in estate housing–abandoned, impoverished and rudderless. Without one shred of evidence, I am wondering if Colm McCarthy grew up without a father, for two simple reasons–like Petronella and Toma, he grew up in Greendyke and has mentioned in interviews that it was very important to him that Outcast take place in Greendyke; in fact, he emphasized in the interview that an important theme of Outcast was the absence of fathers.

Within the microcosm, the three principals–Mary, Fergal and Petronella–are all affected differently. As we discover later in the movie, even though she broke the taboo by sleeping with Cathal and becoming pregnant with a future monster, Mary’s father couldn’t bring himself to kill her…but Fergal was forbidden; by necessity, Mary had to lose her father, her clan and the love, stability and protection therein…and to be fair, her father was right.

Fergal’s father has been the cause of fear, loneliness, constant instability, and possibly a literal monster…of course, unbeknownst to Fergal (because the lad seems to be a bit of a simp), Cathal is worse than a monster; he is complicit in the creation of a monster. And as Cathal’s partner in crime is Mary, who sacrifices all, Fergal is raised by a mother who resents him almost as much as she loves him. And Petronella’s family is devastated–the loss of their father has transformed her mother into a degenerate alcoholic, thus forcing Petronella into the role of caretaker. And as much as she clearly loves Toma, caring for a person with developmental disabilities is particularly challenging. But Petronella has had enough.She has decided to abdicate that responsibility and run away with Fergal.

Unfortunately, tragic (and stupid) circumstances free her from that responsibility indefinitely. While walking Bran, Mary meets Toma who is following them. After a very quick exchange, Mary throws his ball to distract him and makes a hasty retreat, leaving Toma vulnerable to Petronella’s ex-ned, who is about to brain him with a lead pipe. Petronella hears Toma’s screams; once she sees Toma, she, too, begins to scream. Instead of brained Toma, she finds a gutted chav lying across his lap. Apparently Fergal was thinking about Petronella’s thighs again, because the beast has eviscerated the little bastard.

Serves you right, ya wee dick.
WHERE’S BRAN, GODDAMNIT?

Then comes some hard to swallow stupid: about a dozen cops descend and arrest Toma, though it doesn’t take fucking CSI to know that he is incapable of gutting even the flimsiest chavs with his bare handst any rate; same goes for Petronella’s friend and the agent’s corpses, which has just now been found unconcealed in an alley connecting the buildings. Sure. At any rate, Petronella’s family has been canceled, Mary finally realizes that Fergal has been mutating and making a mess. And she just…now…figured that out. But that isn’t what bothers me the most. What really bothers me is WHERE IS BRAN?? She takes Bran for a walk and comes back without him. WTF, Mary?? What did you do to him? I get that maybe she knew bad things were imminent and maybe there wouldn’t be anybody to take care of him, but WHAT DID YOU DO TO BRAN, MARY?? I’m a devout crazy cat lady, but this has always bothered me. Probably way more than it should.

In the meantime, the Laird is hidden just around the corner of a building observing the carnage; he blows a figural whistle, which somehow Liam is able to translate as “Yeah, this isn’t working out”…and that Cathal was no longer to be involved, the Laird could do it by making a sacrifice (better not be Bran). No longer obligated to help Cathal, patient Liam unloads on his ass, tells him that this is all his fault, he knew he wasn’t allowed to breed with the sidhe and that she was only 15 when Cathal seduced her, to which Cathal whines, “She tricked me.” Not sure if “tricked” means, “I thought I would get power” or “she didn’t warn me about possible little bastard monsters”, but Liam tells him to fuck off back to his (presumably miserable) life. No magic for you.

“Getting up in yo domain”.

Surprisingly naive, Liam turns his back to Cathal who proceeds to beat the shit out of him, all the while ranting how he had tried for years to con his way in with the sidhe, but they were stuck-up fairies who don’t even use their power right. From there, Cathal goes directly to a morgue, takes out the mortician and, pulling back the sheet from a corpse, proceeds to do precisely what the Laird forbade: get all up in dead people’s domain aka performs necromancy to pinpoint exactly where to find Mary and Fergal.

Meanwhile, Fergal has packed his own fuck-it bag, but Mary busts him as he’s stealing money. But instead of stopping him, she tells him that having sex with Cathal was forbidden because it would bring about a terrible beast…and that is why they had to run. She is finally able to be soft with him, because she knows there is no longer anything she can do. Which is great. Dickie is brilliant. There’s just one problem: SHE STILL DOESN’T TELL FERGAL THAT HE IS THE BEAST AND WHY WHY WHY? You have to spell these things out, Mary–boy just can’t seem to read between the lines. But they’ve run out of time; Cathal is pounding on the door and she orders Fergal to his room. Once she opens the door, Mary remains eerily calm and invites him in; as soon as he ends, the protective runes light up.

Mary goes out fighting.

Unfortunately, Cathal still has the powers, 15 years of resentment built up and is a mean drunk besides; Mary is no match. One down, one to go.

Cathal taunts Fergal through the locked door–who, by the way, was a real lionheart not to defend his mother–about I’m not just gonna kill you, I’m gonna kill you good and become big and strong and magic. Goes to kick the door just as Fergal the beast bursts through…and is insufferably stupid looking. Ugh. This is prime example of why I like my horror low-tech. I mean, what the fuck–he looks part Hulk, part frog and part hillbilly. I mean, who the fuck gave him that goofy under-bite? This is why I strongly object to anybody who calls this slimy green goon a werewolf. It’s fake-looking as shit and I don’t care that McCarthy had a small budget–for the hundredth time, LESS. IS. MORE. Which is why the xenomorph in Alien was so terrifying–you only saw it in brief glimpses. And whoever is responsible for this abomination ain’t no H.R. Geiger.

Oh WTF…seriously??

The Fergal beast reaches into Cathal’s chest and rips out his heart because of course, he does. Never, ever get tired of that trope. Then Fergal monster sees Mary and grief-roars. Yeah, asshole…guess you should’ve come out and helped her.

“…and that is the moment Petronella took a vow of chastity.

And then Fergal meets Petronella, who asks what’s wrong (MY MOTHER’S DEAD I KILLED MY FATHER I’M A MONSTER) and he tells her he’s tired…which of course, she translates as sex. It doesn’t go well. It still isn’t clear if Fergal is actually too oblivious to know he’s the beast, and if he does, whether he understands how it is triggered nor is it clear whether or not Fergal-beast recognizes Petronella, who is quite reasonably freaked the fuck out. Out of the shadows steps good ol’ Liam. He explains to her that he is Fergal’s uncle and that he has the knife covered in Cathal’s blood, but to kindly be bait. Okay. Two things–does that mean he made it to Mary’s and grabbed Cathal’s bloody knife. Because if so, why didn’t he just lead Cathal there in the first place instead of letting him fuck up everything he touched? And, more importantly, if only somebody of the same blood can kill the beast, WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T LIAM DO IT HIMSELF?

Massively frustrating. Almost as bad is that when Fergal sees her and Liam is about to pounce, she warns Fergal who immediately kills Liam. Why? Because she ends up having to kill Fergal anyway, so…what a waste. Although, it isn’t clear whether Fergal was reaching out to stroke her hair or rip her head off. Either way, Fergal mutates back and dies like a man (sorry). Petronella is very sad. Still. R.I.P., Liam. You were ill-used. Stupidly.

My Halloween decorations are more believable.

Next, we see a bedraggled, woe-begone Petronella sitting on the street with a change cup…and the Laird approaches her. He tells her he knows she is pregnant and that if she follows him, he would get her something to eat. Petronella asks how he knew she was pregnant:”You wouldn’t been able to kill him if you weren’t”. He hands her the same figural whistle for “protection” and they walk off into the finally sunny Edinburgh day. Roll credits.

Except NO! Stop! WTF?? If a half sidhe is a monster, what will the quarter sidhe baby be? Is he tricking her so he can kill it or is there some big huge thing that Colm McCarthy doesn’t explain and FUCK YOU, Colm. I don’t mind an ambiguous ending, but this is a goddamn sucker punch. Laird is being very kind and we’re given the impression that he is an honest man, plus it sounds as if the whistle is supposed to protect her during her pregnancy or is it? Goddamn it McCarthy. It’s just a bad thing to do.

I sometimes wish the movie ended with Mary’s death. It would be too abrupt and still suck, but between that ridiculous Bubba-toothed beast, impossible-to-reconcile plot holes and stupidity, coupled with that sucker-punch ending, it would be far, far better. Because up until that point, the wonderful performances, the fascinating Celtic (actually, probably completely invented, still) rituals, amazing long-distance chemistry between Nesbitt and Dickie, juxtaposing a mythical conquered tribe with life in a Greendyke estate, it is very easy to overlook its faults. Sadly, it goes off the rails…as many movies do. Especially horror. Would I recommend Outcast? Yes, but. Without spoilers, I would tell them patience will be required…and that not all questions will be answered.

Like WHAT HAPPENED TO BRAN?

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