Dir. Pete Ohs (2022)
Two estranged friends find each other in New Mexico, each on the run from a traumatic experience of the past. Unfortunately, their past will catch up to them.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Hot off an impressive festival run and streaming on Fandor starting 2/14, Jethica is a unique and strange tale about haunted pasts and their intersection with the present. Elena (Callie Hernandez) killed a stranger while texting and driving, and she moves shortly thereafter to New Mexico to escape the consequences of her actions. She runs into her old friend Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson) at a gas station, who is running from a situation of her own, namely a stalker named Kevin (Will Madden). He’s followed her to the Land of Enchantment, and the two friends must seek a supernatural solution to their unwelcome guest.
Director Pete Ohs crafts a film that is beautiful to look at, equal parts creepy stalker film and artsy experimental. It’s a black comedy, but one that won’t often have its audience laughing out loud. It poses existential questions that horror rarely touches upon, though they’re fairly superficial despite Ohs’ necessarily heavy-handed approach. It’s also indie to its very core, a low-budget movie that delivers through ambience and emotion rather than guts, gore, or big name stars. Even the script, which is relatively barebones at times, was co-written by the actors themselves, a laboratory-esque examination of the inner workings of movie-making and the components thereof.
This latter piece of the film is both its strongest feature and its least effective element. The movie tends to drag at times because the cast and crew are more focused on building the visual than the narrative, a desert of a story within a desert backdrop. It’s a film that won’t be for everyone, but it was a perfect addition to the likes of SXSW. It’s deals more with themes than story, exploring obsession and the inescapability of our past with a deft hand. It’s offbeat and fluid, moving from one scene to another with reckless abandon while remaining gorgeous throughout. It’s a film that I can’t say is always entertaining but somehow remains perfectly captivating, drawing its audience in to a requisite conclusion.
It makes sense that the actors were playwrights as well, because the creative combined forces of Ohs and his cast is what you’re there to see. It’s a beautiful film, and Ohs creates a film that feels like a look inside these people’s lives. It’s not scary in the slightest, though it threatens to be at times, and it’s not particularly funny either, though it will draw the occasional chuckle. It’s an enigma of a film, one that lends itself to multiple watches and a deeper conversation about its text and subtexts. In that, it is brilliant, and it’s well worth a watch for the discerning, indie-loving palate.
Who this movie is for: Indie film lovers, Dark comedy fans, People who like to text and drive
Bottom line: While certainly not the most exciting movie of the year, Jethica is a compelling tale of infatuation and inevitability. It feels like a movie you’d watch in film school, one that can be dissected into its many layers by students looking to improve their own films. It’s a smart film, one that is clearly made with capable hands that will make you want to see more from its auteur. Hernandez and Robinson are great, with Madden providing the minimal comic relief to bring levity to the events on-screen. It’s well worth a watch if you’re an indie horror fan, and it’s one that will be talked about by people a lot smarter than me. Check it out on Fandor starting 2/14/23.