Offseason [SXSW21]

Stories that deal with grief and loss are always tricky to present on screen. The main reason being that it carries such a heavyweight and can lack respect in some cases. If done right, the movie can deliver an emotional journey for the viewer. Not only will it hit an expressive feeling, but also make the experience feel relatable within the story being unveiled. In order to have sympathy and empathy for the main character, nailing these topics in the right manner proves to be important. In Offseason, directed by Mickey Keating, we go on this journey with Marie, played by Jocelyn Donahue, after losing her mother. She must go to a ghostly island town when she receives word that her mother’s grave has been vandalized and they need her to arrive to take care of it. The island is a seasonal tourist vacation spot that is only open in certain parts of the year. Occurrences take place that not only strands her on this island but also uncover a deadly family secret that she must now face. Offseason tackles an assortment of themes depicting both grief and loss. It also deals with the implication of how decisions we made in our past, may later haunt us and even shape who we are. These themes collectively become the driving force of the movie. Doing so, it also unmasks the identity of who Marie is as a person and what drives her motivation.

To say the least, I love this movie very much. From start to finish the movie had me at the edge of my seat. The story itself may indeed be very familiar and there have been several movies that are indistinguishable from this one. The film is carried by various collective ingredients that serve the view a delicious taste of horror and scares. Tremendously carried by the performance of Jocelin Donahue, I was on this voyage with her discovering all of these haunting reveals throughout its short run time of 83 minutes. It plays like you are being told an urban legend and we see each and every single thing in live-action. The island is a character in itself as it is even referred to as the palm of a hand and the residents are the fingers. A connection that is perfectly shown in this film with the people and the land. Although short they’re always a sense of urgency and a sense of uneasiness/danger for Marie. Each person seems off from the moment you see them. She is depicted to be her only saviour for the majority of this movie. Symbolically connecting with how some people have to deal with grief and loss in their own way. Her mother at the start of the movie states that “You have to accept your nightmares and know they are a part of you. Like family, a friend”. 

Throughout her journey, she is met with many familiar aspects in nightmarish imagery. She is literally haunted by the sins of the past. This intriguing perspective delivers the creative approach the movie needs to stand out from the other movies like it. She is met by old family members that she never connected with, that live there. She literally sees the ghosts from the past that haunt this place in the first act of the film. This shows how impactful the decision they made with the demon really is. Little by little we all see her family members being consumed by the corrupt land. Some fading into zombie like figures and another family member even being possessed and turning into a monster. This imagery can be symbolic of what we can turn into when a decision from the past consumes us. Each of these characters are  losing their identity in their own way.

Offseason overall is a horrifying masterpiece that had me on the edge of my seat in its entire run time. There’s a ghost story, a demonic deal and more. Couldn’t ask for a better movie that checked every box on my list of what I would want in a horror movie. It has traces of Silent Hill with a touch of psychological horror elements. A perfect blend of genres colliding. Delivers large amounts of spookiness that would send the bravest of people running for the hills. Though there are some small pacing issues, the movie never felt dragging whatsoever. Suffering from some visual effects work towards the end, it does take you out a little but is passable in my eye. If you are into the creepy folklore type of a tale, look no further. Offseason is one to look out for. Very much like the island, this movie will take hold of you and will not let you escape its grasp. Make sure to add this to your must-watch horror movies of 2021.