01st Jul2020

‘Outback’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Lauren Lofberg, Taylor Wiese, Kym Cramp, Brendan Donoghue, Jim Winton Porter | Written by Mike Green, Brien Kelly | Directed by Mike Green

When they’re not doing fantastic horror comedies, filmmakers down under like to tell stories, it seems, of the horrors of the Australian outback – and the effect the barren landscape can have on people, be it mentally or physically. Some of which, like Wake in Fright and Walkabout, have gone on to be classics of the genre. Some, less so much. Which leads us to Outback (the overseas title for Wake in Fright‘s original release in some territories, fact fans!), which tells the story of a young couple, Wade (Wiese) and Lisa (Lofberg), who head to Australia hoping to recharge their failing romance. When their GPS fails, they leave their car and head off on foot to find a new route. As night falls, they must spend the night in the bush without food, water, or weapons, surrounded by snakes, scorpions, and wild dogs. Now, one decision could mean the difference between life…and certain death.

So far so good. We’ve got two people, fending for survival in the deadly Australian wilderness. Seems like a recipe for success right? Well…

First off the two lead characters in Outback, Wade and Lisa, bring some ridiculously overwrought emotional baggage with them. Ridiculously overwrought. Like there’s an entire films worth of backstory written on Wade’s face from the get-go. A back story that effects the audience inter-action with him. Only not in a good way. From the very first moment he throws a strop, in the films opening scene, you can’t help but dislike him; and his actions as the film goes on does nothing to help the audience feel any pathos or empathy for him. And Lisa, well she’s a vapid, knows-better-than0-anyone American stereotype who likes to complain at the drop of a hat. And we have to spend the entire film with these two people…

But then maybe, just maybe, that’s the whole idea. Are we to believe that we’re supposed to root for these two tourists? Or are we supposed to root for the outback itself, and admonish the couple for not treating the deadly landscape with the care and reverence they should?

It would seem that latter as Outback wastes no time in showing the audience how deadly Australia is too. Within ten minutes Wade has been stung by a jellyfish… Oooohhh, Australia is deadly. We get it. You also don’t have to keep having your characters saying Australia is a death trap too! It grates by the time they’ve said it more than a couple of times. What also grates is the over the top soundtrack, which booms “this is going to be scary”, attempting to ramp up the sense of terror and dread but instead hurting the audiences ears – and having them grab for the remote to turn down the volume! Hey at least the film LOOKS good, with some great shots of the imposing, yet beautiful, outback strewn throughout the film.

So not only is the outback working against out two protagonists but the entire film is too; which means that Outback is, ultimately, a slog to get through. Which is a shame as there is, come the end of the film, an actual character arc for Wade and Lisa – the duo seemingly learning who they truly are through the experience and mellowing there godawful annoying character traits we saw at the opener. But by then, at least for me, it was too little too late. We needed to see them change far earlier in the film to really feel empathy for the pair and their situation…

Outback is out now digitally in the UK from The Movie Partnership.


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