Frightfest Halloween: Outpost (2022)

Director: Joe Lo Truglio

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Starring: Beth Dover, Ato Essandoh, Dylan Baker, Becky Ann Baker, Dallas Roberts, Ta'Rea Campbell

Best known for his comedic work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Joe Lo Truglio has turned to the horror genre for his feature-directorial debut. The story opens in a startling manner, as Kate (Beth Dover) is subjected to a violent assault from her abusive ex. While recovering from the horrific experience, she takes work as a fire lookout on a mountain, believing the peaceful solitude will help.

While in seclusion, Kate tries sticking to a routine to flee her trauma effectively glimpsed through unsettling flashes. She instead becomes overwhelmed, as the efforts to avoid her demons lead to her being haunted and influencing what she sees. Dover wonderfully captures how this inner turmoil leads to Kate's grip on reality slipping, better conveyed through close-ups of bugs than the overdone dream sequences.

She starts feeling suspicious about the men also on the mountain, particularly Dylan Baker's kooky widower whose home is near the lookout post. Her boss Earl (Ato Essandoh) wishes not to repeat past mistakes which put the area at risk, although Kate believes he has it out for her. The only person she feels comfortable around is Becky Ann Baker's local hiker, a welcoming enigma.

There's shocking revelations as the third-act shows Kate's mindset, yet this leads to less-interesting avenues as it embraces more exploitation elements. While the dialogue could be heavy-handed, the first two acts were stronger parts of the film. Credit is deserved for how Lo Truglio avoids pitfalls stigmatizing mental illness, with this story about the ways trauma can linger and worsen when left unfaced.

Outpost made its World Premiere at Frightfest Halloween