Review by Rafael Motamayor
If you ever wanted to see what a good Lovecraftian take on Silent Hill would be like, then look no further than Offseason, a movie that puts the A in atmosphere and the tentacles in eldritch horror.
Director Mickey Keating has made a career out of blending elements from better-known films and regurgitating them in new forms that feel familiar but offer updated entertainment. His latest, Offseason, has nods to everything from John Carpenter's The Fog, to Dead & Buried, and even a bit of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but it all somehow works together.
The film follows Marie Aldrich (Jocelin Donahue) receiving a letter saying her mother's grave has been desecrated and she needs to go to the island where her mother grew up and is buried in. The problem is that the island is just about to close "only until spring" (according to the locals). Of course, the moment she and her partner George (Joe Swanberg) head there, everything goes south, fog covers the entire island, and the locals become suspiciously hostile while teasing the arrival of an evil presence that once made a deal with the island's original settlers and is now coming to collect.
Despite a low budget, which becomes a detriment at times, Offseason manages to maintain a sense of dread for its entire runtime — though it certainly helps that the film is barely over eighty minutes. Keating wastes no time turning the locals' strange behavior up to eleven, making sure the audience is on the verge of yelling at the screen so the characters get the hell out, already. There is an almost dreamlike-feel to the way the film delivers information, with the film slowing down and exposition dialogues delivered slowly in drawn-out scenes, right before it snaps back into place and brings back a sense of urgency by reminding the audience of the ticking clock that is the raising bridge about to leave the island closed off from the outside world.
Donahue already impressed audiences with her role in The House of the Devil and she delivers one hell of a performance, exploring her character's fear and her slow descent into madness the longer she stays on the island. The camera stays glued on her at all times, bringing the audience in on her desperation and also her resolve, making for a slow yet riveting film. There are no jump scares, but Donahue's performance sells you on the idea that, at any time, something truly horrific is going to come on-screen, to the point where any actual jump scare would take away from the film's excellent and eerie atmosphere.
In a short runtime, Offseason builds an expansive mythology involving ancient deals, ritualistic curses, and a Lovecraftian god or two. Keating knows how to borrow from classic films to pay homage to them while building something new. Though he's limited by budgetary constraints, you come out of Offseason wishing he could take the ideas of this film into a bigger project, because he's displayed enough talent over the past decade to prove himself as an exciting new voice in horror. Plus, he's just made one of the best Lovecraftian movies in years, as well as one hell of a Silent Hill remake, which can only make me excited about what he does next.
Offseason screened as a part of the online edition of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, which ran March 16-20.