The Outwaters (2022) Movie Explained: The Outwaters (2022) plays with the very form of a horror movie, especially that of the sub-genre of found footage horror. It is fantastic and detestable at the same time. If you are watching The Outwaters (2022) on the big screen, it is also bound to leave you feeling dizzy and disoriented by the end of it. In that, it becomes a true example of Lovecraftian horror, i.e., the kind of horror generated due to the incomprehensible and the unknowable.
Shot with the help of a hand-held camera, the movie pans out in the form of video recordings or memory cards made by Robbie. The audience always views the first-person narrative via the keyhole of his camera, making the viewing experience as haphazard as ever. Sometimes, there is absolute darkness on the screen, and we only listen to panic-stricken sounds in the dark. At other times, a small circular light (similar to a mobile camera torch) grazes along every surface it can find, hinting at who might be present at the site of the gory massacre in the middle of the desert.
The Outwaters (2022) challenges your very idea of watching a horror movie, making it feel painfully long and confusing on some occasions. Therefore, we have tried to make some sense of the movie in the article below. It is, however, best to leave some fragments of the film to the imagination since it demands to be experienced, resisting the uniformity of a singular explanation. This article is also very subjective to my experience of the film. Please go ahead and watch The Outwaters (2022) first before you are back here to see if our interpretations align. Spoilers ahead!
The Outwaters (2022) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis
The film begins with the voice of a 9-1-1 operator who has picked up an emergency call from someone. The person on the other end, however, barely speaks anything. The screen is completely dark. All we get to hear are the deafening screams of multiple people and the sound of something being hit. The rest of the film is a found-footage put together, presumably, by the police. It is the authorities’ hazy attempt to pin down the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of four friends.
The premise of the film is relatively simple than the nightmarish events that dominate the plot of this I hour 50 minutes-long movie. Four friends – Robbie (played by Robbie Banfitch), Scott (played by Scott Schamell), Angela (played by Angela Basolis) and Michelle (played by Michelle May) – take a trip to the Mojave Desert to shoot a music video.
It begins with a brief introduction of each character from the POV of Robbie, an aspiring filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. He plans to shoot a music video for his friend, Michelle. Robbie is seen complimenting her as someone who sings like her recently-deceased mother. Before the expedition, Robbie goes home to meet his parents. There he celebrates the birthday of his brother, Scott, who is also going to accompany him on this journey. He also parties with Angela, the fourth member of this expedition. She will be helping Michelle with the hair and make-up during the shoot. This introduction of the four characters is interspersed with Robbie’s two footage of earthquakes, shot in his own apartment.
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The four friends are seen preparing for the trip and embarking on it. Right after leaving the city, they stand to observe a great sunset on a hilltop and spend a night near a small forest lake. The natural beauty of the area never ceases to amaze them. Robbie keeps filming their adventure as they take a swim in the lake. Michelle and Angela pose like models against a road sign for Robbie.
Traveling further into the desert, they find a pack of donkeys blocking the road and ultimately set up their camp at a small hillside adjacent to a dried-up lake. That night, loud thunderclaps and animal noises keep them up, making them feel scared. The next morning, Robbie works with Michelle to film the music video. During a break, the two of them try to listen to an uncanny, loud sound coming from a hole nearby. Robbie also remarks that, strangely his camera’s battery hasn’t depleted in all this time.
Robbie also spots an axe nearby, and the crew decide to finish filming the video that day. That night, the thunderclaps and animal noises come back to haunt them again. Robbie leaves his tent to examine the cause. He spots a naked man in the distance, standing with an axe in his hand. Robbie attempts to flee, but a thud explains that the armed man attacked him, leaving him with a head injury. Robbie returns to the camp, feeling disoriented, only to find the women screaming frantically. After this, since the film is from the POV of Robbie, the narrative becomes fragmented and bizarre.
At one moment, Robbie captures the girls pleading for their lives. At another, he finds vicious snake-like worms infesting the site where they had set up their camps. He is sometimes sleeping in a ravine and sometimes drowning in blood-colored water. Loud snarls point that at some time in the desert, animals found Robbie and closely inspected him. The film becomes more and more maddening and less comprehensible each minute, inching towards its gory finale.
Who is the axe-bearing figure that Robbie sees?
When he first attacks Robbie, the axe-wielding figure he sees at the campsite is a naked unknown man. However, if you watch the movie and come to suspend the time-space continuum of the strange realm that the four friends may have entered into, you may interpret the man as Robbie himself, the lost, disoriented and blood-soaked figure that he becomes by the end of his memory tapes.
This is further substantiated when we see a bloody Angela running away from Robbie while pleading for her life or when he sees the mirage of the four friends walking through the desert from a distance (a close-up shot of which from the beginning of the movie proves that these four friends are actually the four protagonists). The identity of this man, however, is open to interpretation.
The Outwaters (2022) Movie Ending Explained
Robbie is completely disoriented in the Mojave Desert and appears to be wandering aimlessly. He is unsure where the snake-like worm infestation has suddenly appeared and who the assailant is after several encounters with both these elements. Robbie may be starting to slowly lose his grasp on reality, mentally and physically. He suddenly finds himself dipped in a pool of blood-like water. However, he is immediately transported back to the desert, where he vomits blood and cleans something from his foot.
One daytime, he observes a group of friends going into the desert and the pack of donkeys he had seen when he arrived at the campsite earlier. The next moment, a bloody Michelle is running across the lakebed as he chases her until she drops dead. He relives the moments of arrival at his mother’s house, a plane journey, and some large, sniffling creatures. Robbie continues to flee and arrives at the campsite now, where the snake-like worms attack him and Angela.
Ultimately, it is daytime in the desert again. Robbie stumbles upon a gas mask and a sign instructing anyone to keep away from this government-restricted area. He finds the heads of his three companions – Scott, Angela, and Michelle – mounted on three consecutive bamboo poles in the middle of the desert. Their faces are bloody, battered, and rotting. He also finds a tooth of some animal and uses the same to disembowel himself and films the same. We find him tossing around with his severed penis and his gut pouring out from his body as he stumbles around in pain. The film ends with him trying to reach out toward the sky in this fatally-wounded state.
The literal elements of horror in this movie may be easy to jot down, but the film’s difficulty (and mastery) lies in the evocation of other-worldly horror.
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Where to Stream The Outwaters (2022) Horror Movie: The Outwaters is available to stream on Screambox Amazon Channel and Hoopla. You can also rent or buy The Outwaters on Prime Video, Apple TV+, VUDU, and Redbox.