Edinburgh International Film Festival

Outcast (2010)

Starring: James Nesbitt, Niall Bruton, Hanna Stranbridge, Kate Dickie, James Cosmo, Ciaran McMenamin, Karen Gillan

Directed by: Colm McCarthy

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

James Nesbitt in Scottish/Irish horror thriller Outcast

What do you get if you cross the plot of Let The Right One In with the special effects of a budget Hulk movie, then set it all in Trainspotting territory, with a bunch of Irish Gypsy mumbo jumbo thrown in for good measure. Well, fairly obviously, you get low budget horror thriller Outcast.

Intense, witchy Mary and her teenage son Fergal (Kate Dickie and Niall Bruton) are on the run. But when they set fire to their van and accept a scummy council tenancy in a run-down scheme on the outskirts of Edinburgh, it appears that their days on the road are over. Big mistake, as mysterious, tattooed, radge hitman Cathal (James Nesbitt) is hot on their heels, tracking them down using bizarre divining rituals involving pigeons' entrails. Well, it's hardly as if the reclusive pair are on Facebook.

But while Mary sets about weaving protective spells around their flat, Fergal is off getting to know his new neighbourhood, and in particular feisty 'teenager' Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge), who spends her days caring for her mentally disabled brother while her alcoholic mother lies sprawled on the sofa sleeping off the grog. But as a sudden, awkward and rather unlikely romance starts to blossom, Cal is closing in, having been given the go ahead by the local gypsy king or Laird (played, of course, by James Cosmo, as it is illegal to make a film in Scotland without offering him a part).

All sounds a bit strange. Well, it is, but it's also gory, gritty and weirdly compelling – although not always terribly convincing. Perhaps I just have trouble believing there's black magic taking place on my bus route. Or indeed that such cheesy, playground black magic could be so immediately effective – Rosemary's Baby this ain't.

But that aside, this is a brave film that's genuinely trying to do something different, and while the result is at times cheap and patchy, it's also like nothing you've seen before, a sort of dysfunctional Mike Leigh film for the Twilight generation.

Now where did I put my jar of blood and pile of dead birds? I'm off to cast a spell on a traffic warden…

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