Directed by Mickey Keating. Starring Jocelin Donahue, Joe Swanberg, Richard Brake.
Horror, US, 83 minutes.
Streaming on Shudder from 10th June.
There is a Lovecraftian edge to Mickey Keating’s OFFSEASON. Telling the tale of Marie, a young woman who has been called to the remote island town of Lone Palms to deal with the vandalization of her mother’s grave. With her impatient boyfriend George in tow, they realise upon arriving that they only have a small amount of time before the island shuts itself off from visitors for the winter and pulls the bridges up. Why this is so necessary is never fully explained to the couple, neither is why Marie’s mother was buried here against her strongest wishes. As time races by Marie and George realise that something very strange is going on, not just with the locals but with the actual island itself and that Marie’s family strained history may play a part in all of this.
Clocking in at a brief 83 minutes writer and director Mickey Keating manages to pack a good amount of story and horror, cosmic and otherwise, into this neat little film. Packing the cast with familiar faces from the horror scene; Jeremy Gardner also pops up in here as a sailor who seems to know more about Marie’s family history than she does, there is enough in here for horror afficionados who like their horror with an indie edge. The comparisons to Lovecraft are numerous; main character uncovering mysterious family history, mysterious island, its mysterious, unfriendly occupants and rumours of an ancient creature lurking in the depths of the sea but Keating has made sure that this film has its own identity without making it feel like a simple tribute or pastiche.
At times there is also a slight Lynchian atmosphere to the film, particularly in one scene where Marie and George visit a bar to ask for help only to be faced with a hostility that borders on the surreal. It helps the film stand out from the usual glut of low-budget horror films while also standing out in the expanding cosmic horror sub-genre that with the help of affordable digital technology and smart filmmaking decisions in the present day compared to previous decades when it was near impossible to convincingly show or even allude to vast unspeakable terrors that threaten the human race.
Fans of Lovecraft and similar authors should no doubt be pleasantly entertained with the rest of the films audience. Although the atmosphere is plentiful the story is stretched to its absolute limit despite the short running time and there is really nothing to scare or shake the audience to the core. Despite this Keating proves himself as a director to watch if he returns to tackle this burgeoning field of horror with his smart direction that helps propel the story along in two different time periods whilst looking considerably more impressive than its low budget would presumably allow. Whilst it may not rank with the best films that Shudder has to offer it is very, very far from the worst and makes for a diverting evenings viewing.