Offseason: Sadly Predictable But Unnerving
Dir. Mickey Keating (2021)
A woman and her husband travel to a desolate island when her mother’s grave is disturbed. They find that it’s not as easy to leave.
Offseason, a new release from Shudder, is somehow not that great of a movie and also way better than the other more recent Shudder releases as well. The film tries very hard to look like Ari Aster made it, from the creepy score to the title cards used to introduce different themes. The overall ambience of the film helps to establish the desolation and isolation of the island community where our main characters are trapped, and some of the acting is downright fantastic. The story is where the film falls flat, and the choices made at the film’s resolution leave the film stranded in the land of films that are destined to be forgotten, much as its characters are on the island.
While the film is nowhere near as good, effective, or well-made as Aster’s, it’s still a decent effort that is leagues better than a lot of the movies I’ve seen lately. It’s a little disjointed at times, but also is genuinely creepy and unnverving. Richard Brake is amazing as always in his short role, and there’s a cosmic horror theme that runs throughout the film that is unsettling. It’s not particularly surprising and certainly doesn’t add anything new to the genre, but it’s a decent film that has enough creep factor that it’s probably worth a watch.
Richard Brake with a shotgun is always going to be the best part of the movie.
The movie is stylish throughout, and the fog-drenched town has a very Silent Hill vibe to it all. It’s a ghost town feeling that is effectively creepy. The plot that concerns demons crawling out of the sea, making a deal with the townsfolk that makes them unable to ever leave, definitely gets under your skin, and it is the inability of the film to adequately resolve this plot, as well as its focus more on style than substance, that ultimately dooms it. The unstoppable, inevitable permanence of the town and its people is a Lovecraftian swing, but it doesn’t quite pack the punch that it should and disappoints because of its massive potential more than anything else.
As with seemingly every other film made recently, the people who are possessed by the “spirit of the island,” for lack of a better term, have white eyes, because of course they do. Apparently, the milky lenses of glaucoma come with their own demons now, because this is commonplace in every fucking movie now and it’s getting to the point of being a lazy trope (if it’s not already there.) That being said, the white-eyed locals who are doing their best to keep the main character on the island are creepy, and it all works fairly well within the world that the film creates. Knowing that freedom is on the other side of a drawbridge that can’t be crossed is terrifying, and that demonic subplot certainly helps to add to the mystery that never quite quenches the audience’s desire for resolution.
Pictured: The resolution, which sadly also appears on the cover art for the film.
Who this movie is for: Shudder completionists; Folk horror lovers; Optometrists
Bottom line: It’s alright, but it’s definitely not as good as it should be. There are some excellent performances, and the cinematography and locations are likewise fantastic. The feeling of unfulfillment that accompanies the movie keeps it from being really good, and this is one that is worth a watch but won’t ever take up permanent residence in your head. Give it a shot, but don’t go in with expectations any higher than you’re willing to abandon.