SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! In Offseason, Marie (Jocelin Donahue) travels to a remote island after receiving a letter regarding some suspicious activity around a certain grave. Much like getting lost in the woods, being stuck on a remote island is rarely a cause for celebration. There is no limbo or festive cookouts for Marie, but, instead, many demonic locals and haunting hallucinations. It’s less of a getaway and more of a “get away!”
What follows is less of a horror movie and more of a Lynchian psychotherapy session. Writer/director Mickey Keating places Marie in various atmospheric scenarios, which vary in success. One of the best scenes is an exposition drop wrapped up in a domestic squabble. It occurs in a claustrophobic car between two close-ups, all while driving through a dark forest to the surprisingly sinister sounds of The Vogues. The scene builds dread and communicates information at the same time, without one overstepping the other.
“…travels to a remote island after receiving a letter regarding some suspicious activity around a certain grave.”
Where the film disappoints is in its excessive usage of store-bought horror visuals. There are only so many times we can distort the image of a kindly older woman by having her stand in the dark with only the whites of her eyes showing. I’m puzzled why genre exercises go out of their way to reuse the same images over and over again, with little to no deviation. Even the comedy genre stays away from banana peels and pies in the face these days — so much so, you could probably bring them back. The screeching music cues are obnoxious, as well, and it’s not difficult to imagine scenes being far more effective without them. They’re the horror version of the laugh track — a desperate overreach.
In these moody attempts at shock and confusion, it helps to have a protagonist with a presence. In this case, having a presence is more important than the ability to act since literal storytelling isn’t the objective. Donahue, thankfully, has such a presence, so she becomes part of the atmosphere. It’s nowhere near the level of envelopment you would feel in a Kubrick movie, but Offseason does draw you in and close the door behind you. Yeah, the door locks itself. When you’re inside, the film is just scary and baffling enough to keep you curious. When it’s over, it’s over.
Offseason is unlikely to outlive its runtime for the wider viewing public. Despite the many things it does right, atmosphere and casting, mostly, it doesn’t give you any reason to remember it. It’s content with taking direction from what’s come before and not stepping out of line. It’s khaki pants, a grilled cheese sandwich, Everybody Loves Raymond reruns: good, conservative, and unremarkable.
Offseason screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
"…a Lynchian psychotherapy session...atmospheric..."