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John’s Horror Corner: Offseason (2021), a lighter, PG-13-ish Lovecraftian story relying more on atmospheric style than gory substance.

June 13, 2022

MY CALL:  This film may be best for less seasoned, younger horror fans less keen on shrill terror or eye-turning gore. For this very reason, I’m actually a bit surprised this wasn’t helmed by a first-time writer and director. Most qualities to be assessed in this film come off quite rough for me, but mine is a very critical eye. I liked the premise, but required much more in the execution. 

Disclaimer: A screener was provided by a PR/Media group/company. I was not paid or compensated to write this nor were there any conditions to my receiving the screener other than my solicited review and the timing of its posting.

Short Summary from IMDB: “After receiving a mysterious letter, a woman travels to a desolate island town and soon becomes trapped in a nightmare.”

Where can WATCH NOW? RLJE Films will release OFFSEASON On Demand, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray on August 3rd. To watch on Amazon just CLICK HERE.

SOLICITED REVIEWS: On occasion I accept requests for solicited reviews. But make no mistake, I have a day job and limited time. My favoritism to accept solicitations leans towards those who offer a physical screener, but that favoritism does not de facto earn a favorable review—but a “fair” review. Examples of my solicited reviews include Séance (2021), Belzebuth (2017; US release 2020), Scare Package (2019), Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019), The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), The Unseen (2017; aka Amourosis), The Belko Experiment (2016) and The Barn (2016).

Accompanied by her estranged lover George (Joe Swanberg; XX, The Sacrament, V/H/S, You’re Next), Marie (Jocelin Donahue; The House of the Devil, Insidious Chapter 2, All the Creatures Were Stirring, Holidays, Doctor Sleep) must venture to a tiny island village in Florida to address the desecration of her mother’s grave. Arriving just before the seasonal closure of the island to the public, the lone bridge is raised upon her entry. When things get fishy and they attempt to drive home, the roads become blocked by the local palmy flora as if a road was never there.

Weaving atmosphere, director and writer Mickey Keating (Pod, Ritual, Psychopaths) opens the film with Marie’s demented mother’s monologue. Clearly mad, or perhaps “touched” by some madness beyond, she instills a strong sense of gravity as she suggests that no place exists in which one can escape “them.” A bit cliche, but we are left to wonder what demons in the shadows, despicable people or maybe some other physical entities plague her thoughts.

The humble budget is most readily apparent upon every sight of “them.” Like a much older film, these “them” are powdered-ashen people with whited-out eyes, akin to a deadite but lacking any additional signs of demonic undeath. They generally stand motionless ineffectively staring at our movie’s protagonist. I think the inspiration was, among other movies, something to the tune of We Are Still Here (2015).

The gags in this film feel antiquated, the likes of which one may expect from a 60s horror film. A deranged old lady speaks creepy feelings into Marie’s ear before somehow disappearing, excessive use of fog is employed to get Marie lost in a graveyard and separated from George, the very manner in which “the island” prevents them from leaving, and the exposition dump from the bridge keeper (Richard Brake; 31, Mandy) all harken a bygone horror era. In fact, it seems that this film takes place in the 70s or 80s based on the car we see, the presence of pay phones, and the complete lack of any digital devices like cell phones.

What interested me most before seeing this film were the “Welcome to Innsmouth” lovecraftian vibes from the trailer. I hoped I was in for a retelling of Dagon (2001) with a more subtle approach (and thus, fewer tentacled fish monster people). The townsfolk tell a dark history of their island, and how long ago they made a bargain with a man who crawled from the sea. The bargain was to protect the island village from the deadly storms–but at a price. I was also getting strong folk horror vibes, wondering if Marie was meant to be some sacrifice to appease a dark God of the Sea or to abet the deadly storms.

Clearly the budget just wasn’t there for special effects. There is no gore or brutality, weak make-up, unrefined writing, and almost nothing in the way of scares. This film is a tonal creeper that isn’t successful in its goal. It seems like a very rough first draft of the film that was intended. Someone needs to give this filmmaker a budget so we can really see what he can do.

 

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