Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Outpost 11 (UK 2012: Dir Anthony Woodley)

There are so many elements involved in making a film that, when pulled together as a finished product, can mean the difference between success and tragedy, sometimes just by a small margin. Films can have a great story with uninteresting visuals, or be badly acted but great to look at, or filmed in locations which almost but don’t quite compensate for the lack of depth or emotion in the script. But when a film’s basis is three people trapped in a small drab room quietly (and not so quietly) going bonkers for 91 minutes, all the elements have to work very hard to compensate for such a thin premise.

Outpost 11 locates itself in alternative 1955 in the midst of a new Hundred Years War, where a small team of soldiers occupies a remote listening post intercepting military messages, and looking after a large wheezing contraption called The Omega Machine. If I have made this sound in any way interesting, then forgive me. The soldiers bicker and fuss in a strictly Waiting for Godot manner, and gradually begin to lose their grip on reality after possible exposure to a psychotropic drug released by the enemy, hallucinating some joke shop rubber beasts and an astonishingly primitive stop frame animated spider.

Rarely have I seen a film that gets everything so wrong. The script is clich├ęd and leaden, the almost one room set depressing and totally uninteresting, and the acting flat and completely uninvolving. Any desire of the director to make something cinematically different is defeated by realising that you’ve seen the various elements deployed more successfully in any number of other films – the most obvious and consistent visual reference seemed to be David Cronenberg’s film The Naked Lunch, a movie which is itself problematic in terms of bizarre visuals coupled with impenetrable narrative. Outpost 11 drags itself agonisingly to the end of its hour and a half with no satisfying resolution, or chin stroking final shot that would at least cause the viewer to rethink what they’ve seen (a popular ploy when making movies whose meaning is hard to fathom).

Outpost 11 is a truly hideous film. I detected no spark of talent in Anthony Woodley’s direction that would make me seek out any of his subsequent output. Please avoid this movie unless you are a steampunk completist or thought that the animation of Morph in Tony Hart’s TV shows was brain warping.