Folk horror has had a pretty healthy tradition in British genre cinema, whether it be the ‘classics’ like Blood On Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man, through to lesser-known fare such as Robin Redbreast.

Looking to put a modern spin on things is They’re Outside, the debut project from directorial team Airell Anthony Hayles and Sam Casserly (Hayles also writes).

Part documentary, part found footage, They’re Outside gets chunks of what it is trying to achieve wrong, but has enough going for it to remain a solid watch.

Set in a world where internet celebrities crash into centuries-old myths and traditions, the story focuses on Youtube psychologist Max Spencer (Tom Clayton-Wheatley), who has made a name for himself trawling the country and curing people of their mental ills.

His latest challenge? To head to Hastings and meet Sarah Sanders (Chrissy Randall), who suffers from agoraphobia and who, apparently, has not left her house for years.

But the reason for her not leaving is where we enter ‘folk horror’ territory, as Randall is encased in the local legend of ‘Green Eyes’, a devilish figure who lives in the woods and lures people (namely children) to their doom. That’s exactly what Randall thinks happened to her own daughter, hence her reticence to venture outdoors in case she suffers a similar fate.

Naturally Spencer believes this to be hogwash, so the film plays out as a back-and-forth as each tries to convince the other that they are most definitely wrong.

Thrown into the mix is Spencer’s girlfriend Nicole (Nicole Miners) – who acts as cameraperson on the project and whose presence adds to the frisson as Randall most definitely does not want her there. Also on hand is Sarah’s long-time friend Penny Arnold (played by Horror Channel favourite Emily Booth), who recounts much of the Green Eyes legend to keep the whole thing moving along.

So, who will be proved right? Does Green Eyes exist? Will Max be able to tempt Chrissy over the threshold? Better watch to find out…

The biggest problem facing They’re Outside is a simple one – namely the character of internet star Max. He is not just annoying, but insanely annoying – arrogant, smarmy and an all-round jerk. The film does try and throw in a back story later on to try and build some sympathy, but by then any semblance of empathy for him is long gone. Sarah is also very difficult to warm to – standoffish, rude at times and often monosyllabic. I fully understand that this is probably what the makers were aiming for, but it leaves the audience floundering as to any emotional connection – or for anyone to ‘root for’.

Onto the plusses and there are a number – the style really works, from a documentary-style intro to the ‘found footage’, complete with a handful of subliminal cuts. Included in the footage is film from real-life festivals in Hastings, complete with costumed dancers, weird figures and morris dancers, which certainly adds to the legend of Green Eyes. The choice to mix in some animation to document the legend also works well and allows the makers to broaden the scope of the project that their budget probably didn’t allow.

The biggest thumbs-up though goes to an inspired opening, which sees Nicholas Vince prowling the woods as Professor Richard Hill, introducing the legend of Green Eyes and setting up the footage that is to follow. Vince is wonderful, and if there was the possibility of setting up a series of adventures with Vince traveling the country recounting local folk stories I would be all in on that.

A flawed effort, but a commendable one nonetheless, They’re Outside proves a solid, but sadly not spectacular, slice of entertainment.

Arrow Video Frightfest Digital Review: They're Outside
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle