dir Colm McCarthy
scr Colm McCarthy, Tom K McCarthy
prd Eddie Dick, Brendan McCarthy, John McDonnell
with James Nesbitt, Kate Dickie, Niall Bruton, Ciaran McMenamin, Hanna Stanbridge, Josh Whitelaw, Therese Bradley, James Cosmo, Karen Gillan, Christine Tremarco, Andrew Martin, Ian Whyte
release US Mar.10 sxsw,
UK 10.Dec.10
10/Ireland 1h30
Bump in the night: Stanbridge and Bruton

sw sw sw
Edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Outcast Creepy and atmospheric, this low-budget thriller works primarily because it never over-explains its twisty, grisly premise. And strong performances from the cast manage to emerge despite an extremely murky visual style.

Mary (Dickie) has fled Ireland with her 15-year-old son Fergal (Bruton) and settled in a squalid Edinburgh housing estate, where she immediately starts scrawling protection spells on the walls in her own blood. And there's good reason, as the shady Cathal (Nesbitt) is hot on her trail, travelling with his brother Liam (McMenamin) under orders to "kill the boy". Despite this, Fergal tries to be a normal teen and spark a romance with his new neighbour Petronella (Stanbridge). But there's a beast on the loose and, quite literally, hell to pay.

The supernatural elements of this story are cleverly underplayed by the McCarthy brothers' script. They keep the film earthy and gritty, and also rather yucky as things get increasingly violent. By shooting mainly in very deep shadows, scenes are swamped in blackness (or sometimes bleached in sunlight). We can only see glimmers of people in the gloom, their sweaty skin glistening in what looks like candle-light. It's somewhat annoying not to be able to see things more clearly, but this approach does contribute to a seriously unsettling tone that keeps us on edge.

It also helps that the narrative is fairly simple, unencumbered by rambling exposition or distracting subplots. This allows us to get fully consumed by the situation, so we begin to worry along with Mary about Fergal's fate. On the other hand, it's not too difficult to predict where the film is heading, although some scenes do catch us off guard. And the cast members all give fully vested performances.

The McCarthys inventively use their actors to help crank up the tension while keeping things both scary and emotional. They also indulge in some gothic horror nastiness. In the end, the film's lack of real subtext keeps it from becoming a classic. Even Fergal's more-tortured-than-usual teen angst never quite boils over into something unexpected. Although his mother's warning to "stay away from girls" starts to feel unexpectedly sinister.

cert 18 themes, strong language, grisly violence 23.Sep.10

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