Another summer, another horror TV show: Outcast, from a pretty impressive pedigree. Created by Robert Kirkman (a founder of Image comics and writer on The Walking Dead and co-creator of Fear The Walking Dead) from his own comic book (created alongside Paul Azaceta) and with a pilot directed by Adam Wingard who was the man behind two of my favourite horror movies of the last few years, You’re Next and The Guest.
Episode 1 sets up the world of Rome, West Virginia (oh, yes it’s one of those TV shows set in a small town named after a big, spiritual town). A young boy smashes his head into a cockroach, eats it and then starts eating his own finger. Yep, Outcast is about demons. Demons are real and only hard-drinking, hard gambling Reverend Anderson seems to know this. Oh and outcast and loner Kyle (Patrick Fugit) who was tortured by his possessed mother and his possessed wife but who everyone else in town has written off as having mental health issues.
Without giving too much away Kyle hears about the possessed boy and feels driven to seek out Rev. Anderson (Philip Glenister) and help. Only the demon recognises Kyle who seems to be the person they are after and the only one able to actually drive them away. It sucks to be Kyle in Outcast.
Whilst the publicity around Outcast plays heavily on Kirkman’s involvement with The Walking Dead, the show has very little in common tonally with it. It feels more like mid-Nineties eerie serial killer series Millennium mixed with Brit possession show (and underrated modern classic) Apparition. It is all about Fugit’s skittish Kyle, all scratchy and broken, glimpses of things out the corner of the eye, flashbacks to dark rooms and children’s drawings on the insides of cupboards.
Whilst enjoyable enough it seems to rely too much on its marketing as a series about demons to justify its gross moments; it doesn’t earn its story beats through characterisation, at least not yet. There is something interesting going on under the surface (it’s good to see a protagonist in Anderson who drinks and gambles not because his faith is broken but because it isn’t; he doesn’t need to be an ascetic because he is sure demons and evil are real, he drinks to celebrate life not escape it) but this pilot doesn’t really show that. It’s a fairly by the numbers demons story.
The talent involved alone warrants giving it more time to develop and there is definite potential in its premise. It just needs to move its pieces a little less creakily, it needs to earn its horror.
GS Rating: 2.5/5
GS Blogger: Bobby Diabolus