“Outlier” — by Nate Strayer. A different kind of suspense film. - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Sunday, October 31, 2021

“Outlier” — by Nate Strayer. A different kind of suspense film.

 “Outlier” — by  Nate Strayer. A different kind of suspense film. 

There is a cleverness to first-time director, Nate Strayer’s suspense film “Outlier,” which he co-wrote with Jona Doug. The story is simple enough. We follow a terrified woman hauling ass through the woods, she falls over. Heads her head. We see a big man chopping timber for firewood intercut with shots of the same hulking man plugging his smartphone into a massive mainframe computer. Interesting but confusing. 

It turns out that the woman is Olivia (Jessica Denton) and she’s trapped in a dangerous and abusive relationship with her boyfriend James (Logan Fleisher), and she’s meek, passive, and deep down inside, believes she deserves the abuse. Now the wood chopping man is Thomas (Thomas Cheslek), who intervenes when he witnesses how James is treating Olivia at a gas station. He’s the hero and has rushed in to save the damsel in distress. He takes her to his remote lakeside cabin with a promise, that “Heroes can exist.”

When Olivia asks Thomas how he makes his money, he tells her that he writes educational software, and sold this is a company for big bucks. This admission is important because it establishes his code of ethics and his understanding of algorithms. He’s a creepy man for sure because he just might be the dude that will stalk, abduct, and imprison, these passive victims to “help them.” But in Olivia’s mind, she has dark thoughts and learns quickly that her instincts are spot on. 

“Outlier” mixes many of the slasher tropes while juxtaposing the pulse of wild nature with modern advances of technology where algorithms can solve delicate problems. Thomas is a genius of sorts despite his controlling behaviors, and as he speaks into a phone headset about Olivia, she overhears these conversations and begins to hatch a plan of escape. She has no choice. She begins to believe that Thomas might be crazy and that she’s in danger. But something is happening to this formerly passive woman. She’s getting stronger and refuses to be dominated once again. This time she’s going to put up a fight. But in a bizarre twist, this seems to be exactly what Thomas wants. 

The word ‘outlier’ can refer to a person who lives at the edge and this is Strayer’s debut feature and in a strange way he walked on a proverbial tight rope to get this film completed.  He shot the very low-budget film during the COVID lockdown. That sparks of determination. 

In film, you show and tell. In television, you set up a situation and allow the dialogue to push and lead the story. This film is shaped more like a television episodic pilot. This isn’t a good movie but it’s not an awful movie either. 

There is a kind of awkward charm to “Outlier” and I would not count first-time director, Nate Strayer out of the game. Rather, I’d keep an eye on this talent. He suffered from poor casting — in my opinion — in the female lead, actress Jessica Denton. I found myself wishing he would have found a young Jessica Lange type. He need an actress with the skill set to pull back the layers but then I remember, it was shot during COVID-19 and it was super low budget … so all in all … this is not bad for a first-time director. 

Nate Strayer’s abduction thriller “Outlier” collected 5 awards and 6 other nominations and thus it confirms what I said, he’s someone to keep an eye on. 

#movies #slasher #computers #victim 

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