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Offseason (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Starring Jocelin Donahue, Joe Swanberg, Melora Walters, Richard Brake, Jeremy Gardner, April Linscott, Jonathan Medina, Eliza Shin, Jess Varley, Andrew Vilar, Larry Fessenden, Amanda Grace Benitez, Andrew Varenhorst, Anthony Azar, Ken Luzadder and Michael Wheeldon.

Screenplay by Mickey Keating.

Directed by Mickey Keating.

Distributed by Defiant Studios. 83 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2021 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Offseason is one of those movies that is a little difficult to characterize as a critic. Technically you know that the thriller isn’t all that great a film. Still, it does deliver some truly scary scenes, a few of the most chilling scenes that I’ve seen in a while now. So, it kind of works, even if it is very uneven.

This film is an old-fashioned scare film. It blatantly borrows from such past classics as Carnival of Souls, The Stepford Wives and The Fog. Yet, it also weaves an intense sense of unease all on its own. And if parts of it don’t quite make sense and the ending leaves something to be desired, it is still worth the deep dive.

Offseason focuses on a peculiarly universal question: What happens in resort towns when it is out of season? There is almost no one around, almost everything is closed, the weather is awful, and the few locals left tend to look at outsiders with distrust. (The recent b-horror film 6:45 also toyed with this phenomenon, although in a very different way.)

This is particularly true about Lone Palm Island (a fictional island played by New Smyrna Beach, Florida). This small island literally closes during the winter, totally cut off from the mainland until the spring. No one is allowed on the island except for the small number of natives (seeming to be about in the 20-30 people range). The bridge is put up for the duration and there are no ferries coming or going.

If you’re on the island after they close, you are stuck there for the duration.

The lead character, Marie (Jocelin Donahue) is not quite a stranger, but she is certainly not a native, either. Her late mother Ava (Melora Walters, shown in flashback) was a famous actress who was from Lone Pine Island, however she left the island behind when she was young, and she never looked back.

Years later, when Ava was dying of dementia, in her few lucid moments she would beg Marie not to allow her to be buried on the island. She said the island was evil. However, as much as Marie tried to stop it from happening, a will supposedly from Ava called for her to be buried in her family plot, and so she was.

Marie comes to her mother’s old home soon after, when she receives a letter from the local graveyard caretaker, telling her that her mother’s grave has been vandalized and she has to come to deal with the damage. Marie and her uptight boyfriend George (played by mumblecore director Joe Swanberg) show up on the island the day before it is to close.

As you may guess, they get stuck on the island after it closes. Things start going bump in the night. Natives are outwardly hostile towards them. And what’s the deal with all that mysterious mist?

Eventually, the payoff is not quite worthy of the terrific setup. However, there are enough legit chills in Offseason that it is definitely worth the time.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: October 25, 2021.

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