Out There is a 15 minute film short of beautifully deserted landscapes, where woods and trees impose on both sides, where the evidence of people is only hinted at by the belongings they’ve left behind. Robert (Conor Marren) is our protagonist, a man who wakes up in the woods with a head wound and nothing to set him on the right path home. In his short journey, he keeps seeing snippets of conversations with his girlfriend, Jane (Emma Eliza Regan), who we shortly find out is pregnant.
We don’t see many people besides Robert and Jane, which means Out There‘s two actors must play their parts boldly and strongly. And they do – it helps that the short film requires little dialogue, because it allows Marren to gesticulate with his character while the audience observes his actions and reactions. It’s a difficult thing to get right, but with the good direction by writer/director Randal Plunkett, the short is able to compel the viewer onward, if not because of the obviously tense scenes where Robert tries to jostle his memory, then because of the scenery.
It’s also due in part to a good soundtrack full of wandering synth tones meant to induce a sense of dread. There’s tension as Robert explores, even when nothing at all happens besides the sting of the music and an eerie sense that something might occur down the road. That’s a good thing, though; the best tension occurs with no effort at all.
Still, Out There feels a little too long. The scenes of aimless wandering, while useful in the sense that they allow Robert clips from his memory, are also too numerous. The short could have been pared down and it wouldn’t have lost any of its charm. Instead, the meanderings feel like padding, extra time tacked on that alleviates some of the suspense after a while.
And the ending has its charms, especially when one considers what it must feel like to confront one’s own cowardice head on when amnesia lifts. But before Out There can really reflect how Robert feels about his shortcomings (I mean, his egregious error), the film ends with a clip of a zombie very special to him. While this is in a way a direct way for Robert to confront his error, a metaphorical depiction of this before the final encounter would have made for a very emotional scene, one that the ending of Out There kind of misses out on.
Still, the short is quite an enjoyable experience simply because of a combination of elements that come together to form a tight, suspenseful narrative that requires little actual scares. Out There is great to enjoy as a short watch between tasks, and it’s a compelling take on the zombie genre, one that has grown quite stale of late.