Offseason 2022 Review

Offseason opens with grainy, nostalgic footage of beach holidays, set to a fairy tale musical score, before cutting sharply to a grey, desolate coastal shot, where cold waters meet unwelcoming sands beneath a vast, indifferent sky.

The grim, weather-beaten island setting is its main strength, as the films protagonists explore the eerily empty town, against a backdrop of storm clouds and an impending deluge. It’s like a seaside Silent Hill, where mist further obscures the colour drained streets and the muted green foliage seems caught in a constant state of pre-dawn expectancy, waiting for a sun that will not rise.

All the roads and bridges are long and bordered on either side by seemingly measureless bodies of water or impenetrable darkness, further confining the reluctant visitors and highlighting their isolation, having left the mainland, and familiarity, way behind them.

Offseason 2022 Film

Jocelin Donahue carries this film (most recognisable from Ti West’s 2009 love letter to retro horror, The House of The Devil) as Marie, the daughter who is summoned to the island, just as the tourist season closes, to investigate the destruction of her late mother’s grave. Marie offers a warmth that is absent in the pallid faces of other characters. She is accompanied by her schlubby bespectacled partner, George, played by Joe Swanberg (from You’re Next 2011 and VHS 2012), a stoic, overly rational academic, wrapped in tweed and scepticism.

Jocelin plays the part well making the most of a poor script that offers little to support the limited acting ability of the supporting characters. There is, however, only a limited amount for her to do as her character spends most of the time exploring the island alone. The two main dialogue heavy interactions are clumsy exposition dumps, although beautifully shot, both bathed in red light, enclosed in darkness, with subtle dark green hues fighting against the night.

The islands inhabitants fulfil the uncanny, unfriendly stereotypes of an insular community, returned to by outsiders against their will. Unsettling and awkward interactions are filled with unspoken words and thinly veiled warnings as the locals, at the suitable named “Sand Trap” bar, behave in, at first, cliché then increasingly bizarre ways. The islanders move from mere caricatures to unresponsive mannequins, complete with voided eyeballs and heavy eye shadow for unoriginal, Conjuring-eque scares.

The middle of the film is book ended by interactions with the Bridge Man, a character that begins as a harbinger only to be later revealed as a more classic Charon character, from Greek mythology. He’s played with weather battered threat by Richard Brake, most notable from Mandy 2018 and Rob Zombie horrors like 31 2016 and 3 From Hell 2019.

Offseason jocelin donahue

Elements of the films backstory are revealed via flashbacks from the final days of Marie’s mother, played with skeletal, unhinged deterioration by Melora Walters, most recognisable from her drug addicted, abused role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece Magnolia 1999. The reliance on half remembered flashbacks, blurry, unfocussed interactions and a distorted score, filled with whispers and discordant strings, begin to question the lead’s reliability and their doubtful sanity. The ephemeral nature of what Marie encounters and what she understands or remembers hints at paranoia with Rosemary’s Baby 1968 undertones, but neither of these rich areas of horror are utilised nearly enough.

Instead, Offseasons final third is ultimately disappointing and hurriedly touches on too many varied concepts, spreading itself too thinly, denying the audience any satisfactory conclusion or intriguing ambiguity. Townsfolk behave in jarringly supernatural ways, seemingly for the sake of cheap jump scares, while nods to Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978 body horror clash with a Lovecraftian cosmic threat (though limited by poor CGI) alongside notions of possession, all wrapped up in considerations of heaven/hell and perceptions of an afterlife, bringing to mind another bridge based horror, The Beyond 1981.

Writer Director Mickey Keating is clearly skilled, and successfully sets Offseason in an unnervingly atmospheric hinterland, using slow panning shots to highlight isolation and the bleak, uncanny threat of a normally glowing holiday resort bereft of tourists. The successful scene setting is sadly wasted, however, on an unfocussed story that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Characters are underdeveloped, the script is lacking and overly reliant on heavy handed exposition while, sadly, the story fails to deliver on the interest created in the first half. If Offseason could have picked a lane, and concentrated on delivering something more disciplined, with self-assured storytelling, it really could have been something so much more.

Offseason is now Available to Stream on Shudder

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