Horror movies that exploit the phobias of both their audience and their characters make for such great storytelling; I guess their writers just seem to like knowing that their viewers are squirming in their seats with sweaty palms. And there really is a good amount of films out there that play on phobias - everything from arachnophobia (spiders), claustrophobia (enclosed spaces), ornithophobia (birds), and even aerophobia (flying) all have horror flicks exploiting these phobias. So obviously when I heard that THEY'RE OUTSIDE has a story based off a woman with agoraphobia (fear of unknown environments), I obviously had to check it out. The movie - written by Airell Anthony Hayles and directed by Sam Casserly alongside Hayles - is a documentary style film made to look like it was shot for a YouTube channel about psychology. The channel's celebrity psychologist finds out about a woman's severe agoraphobia which has kept her from leaving the house in five years; so he takes up the challenge to work with her and get her to walk out the front door of her home in just ten short days. It's one of those movies where you can pretty much count the number of main actors in the film on one hand - only the most necessary characters to the film are in it, and typically those movies do a pretty awesome job with less. But while the basis for the film is pretty awesome and it has its parts that are entertaining, it kills me to admit that this movie just didn't do it for me. I'm not sure if it's because some of the story feels rushed or unbelievable or what, but the second half of the film just unfortunately falls short of feeling like it was really worth it. There is a decent backstory as to why the woman suffers from such severe agoraphobia, and the folklore behind it is far from bad, but overall both the climax and the ending of the film just missed the mark.
The psychologist in the film is Max Spencer (Tom Wheatley) - a good looking yet obnoxious and kinda annoying dude with a YouTube show called Psychology - Inside/Out where he addresses and treats mental health patients. And as with internet culture these days, he creates a "challenge" where he insists he will be able to treat Sarah (Chrissy Randall) and help her leave the house for the first time in five years. But once Max and his camerawoman/girlfriend Nicole (Nicole Miners) arrive at the house, the true cause of Sarah's fears come to light as she reveals her belief that the woods are haunted by the local legend Green Eyes. This creature wears a cape made of leaves and a mask made of wood, and his evil magic workings out in the woods plagues people who live there. Sarah is convinced that once Green Eyes comes for you and you wander out into his woods, the woods become endless until you finally stumble upon his wooden house... and from there, the nightmare is just beginning. Max repeatedly calls the folklore nonsense and something Sarah has to get over... but is it? Or is Green Eyes really out there, haunting what he calls his woods? Or has Sarah just lost touch with reality and become a prisoner of her own mind? Find out in... THEY'RE OUTSIDE!
The local boogeyman story is pretty much the only draw to the film for me, since I'm an absolute sucker for a creature of folklore. And honestly, when it comes to Green Eyes, They're Outside doesn't really slack. But when it comes to the rest of the story, things just kinda fall apart halfway through and it feels like the movie never really recovers. All of a sudden, Max is cheating on his girlfriend with a girl he's known for a day and now the camerawoman is gone and Sarah's friend is now randomly there and there's some dumb pranks going on and... yeah, it's a mess. It's almost like when writing the story, a bunch of ideas came up and instead of working out a good one, all of them were just thrown into the pot and the film just becomes muddled with nonsense that feels like it has nothing to do with the main storyline that the movie just spent the last forty five minutes setting up. I'm sure someone would argue that it is intentionally supposed to feel that chaotic and messy, but I honestly think it was just a product of too many ideas but not enough focus on defining a worthwhile one. I'll admit, however, the absolute ending of the film isn't dreadfully bad; it just isn't worth the buildup to it. If the movie did a better job at going from 30 minutes in to an hour and 15 minutes in, They're Outside might be something that would be easier to recommend to viewers but it just doesn't do it. It's an unfortunate pass from me.