We all suffer grief in our lives. It’s an unavoidable part of the human experience, and we all handle it differently. Some of us try to ignore it by putting up a front, while others sink into very deep depressions for long periods of time. But what happens when you lose someone you love on the cusp of Armageddon? Writer/director A.T. White asks this in his stylish character study Starfish.
“Upon waking…she finds that everyone in her small town is missing, and…the only person left alive.”
Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) finds it impossible to relate to anybody after the death of her best friend Grace (Christina Masterson), so she locks herself in her apartment to avoid everything. Upon waking from a deep sleep, she finds that everyone in her small town is missing, and she seems to be the only person left alive. Reveling in the solitude, Aubrey goes out of her way to ignore any possible survivors until discovering a horrific alien monster lurking in the streets. As much as she tries, however, she can’t escape her memories and finds herself on a scavenger hunt for mixtapes from her deceased friend that will hopefully unlock the secret to all that’s happening.
Visually, the film is absolutely gorgeous with White incorporating psychedelic imagery, loud music, and even animation to propel the narrative beyond mere linear storytelling. It’s told more in emotions than actions, each step forward a stage of grief Aubrey must overcome while the monster certainly represents the anguish welling up inside her. White’s eye captures it all brilliantly so that we actually feel the visuals as they happen in stream-of-consciousness delivery.
“…multiple viewings become essential to understanding the story.”
Unfortunately, the film has been associated with horror, leading it to be heavily misunderstood. Though it has horrific elements, it is not a horror movie. Instead, it lingers in the mysterious science fiction of contemporaries like Lesser Beasts and Perfect, where multiple viewings become essential to understanding the story. That said, White has stated that the film is based on his own loss of his best friend with parts that are so intensely personal, he’s likely to be the only person who fully understands what they mean.
Pain either destroys us or makes us stronger. The trick is knowing how to avoid the traps and use it for inspiration. While he could have stayed stuck in the black void of sorrow, White instead made something beautiful. Honestly, he could not have paid a better tribute to his friend.
Starfish (2018) Directed by A.T. White. Written by A.T. White. Starring Virginia Gardner, Christina Masterson, Eric Beecroft, Natalie Mitchell, Shannon Hollander. Starfish made its East Coast premiere at the 2018 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.
8 out of 10 stars