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Home > Offseason (2021): A Review

Offseason (2021): A Review

Offseason

Sometimes, It's Better Not To Go Home

By Mark DeCastro

The Slowburn of Being Stranded 

Offseason is a 2021 horror movie produced by Kodiak Pictures in collaboration with writer-director Mickey Keating. It stars Jocelin Donahue as Marie Aldrich, the daughter of a recently deceased celebrated actress with a mysterious past. She must return to her mother’s small, isolated island town to confront family secrets and the occasional zombified local in this slow-burn Lovecraft-inspired flick, now available to stream on Hulu. 

An Overview of Offseason

Offseason is a highly atmospheric film that takes its sweet time to unravel, and when it finally does, it is about as satisfying as serving a single Little Bite to an entire birthday party. It is a generic dud solely saved by its interesting cinematography and moody shadows. Films like the 1981 cult classic Dead and Buried or the 2006 movie adaptation of Silent Hill trod similar ground as Offseason but with more believable circumstances and stronger writing. The movie starts on the wrong foot with an inciting incident that doesn’t require enough urgency to move the script along. It was as though the director had a few visuals he knew he wanted to create and didn’t care how he got there. If logic is thrown to the wind, the film gets mildly more enjoyable, but it was nevertheless a tough watch heavily reliant on tropes or, perhaps more graciously, odes to numerous previous films. The premise: a relative of a dead local shows up in a creepy coastal town; nothing deviates from the deeply derivative nature of this setup. 

The actors, moody lighting, desolate beaches, and unbelievable amounts of fog worked tirelessly to save the thin script, but ultimately, their overcorrections were in vain. Characters could seemingly teleport from one location to the next. Much of the dialogue was stilted to the point the script noticeably suffered from a lack of necessary collaborative revision needed to filter and refine the potential creative vision. This film exemplifies that just because you can write what you direct doesn’t mean you should. The director is skilled but is better off shooting someone else’s script. Offseason finished with viewers thinking, “that’s it?” and wondering what could’ve been.

A look at the Cast and Characters 

Jocelin Donahue is a broadly competent lead but fails to delve deeper than immediate surface-level emotion. Her lack of depth fails to hold the film above water in a movie with limited scares, a dense surrounding atmosphere, and a lot of solo screen time. The performers with the most screen time were often passable at best; however, Richard Brake as the Bridge Man is the lighthouse in this stormy sea. With such little screen time, the impact of his performance is even more impressive. His one monologue is the true stand-out moment of a film that had potential but ultimately didn’t make much sense.

Offseason

Melora Walters had a distinct perspective on Ava Aldrich, the mentally ill mother, but seemed to be straining for her performance. As George Darrow, Marie’s partner, Joe Swanberg also had difficulty keeping up with the rest of the cast and suffered from a distinct “actor’s voice” that detracted from any notion of believability. It seemed as though everyone was performing in a different movie with no real sense of connection between them. Overall it felt like a late 2000s cable tv movie that aged slightly better than most.

The main character Marie was infuriating to watch stumble about. She kept making the least sensical and least motivated decisions. It was like watching the Geico commercial, where they ran past the running car to hide behind swinging chainsaws. Her only agency came from making short-sighted decisions that led to what felt like a predetermined destination. The film does not mention her life other than who her mother is. She has no job or friends, simply the urgent need to get to her mother’s grave. Any further insight the filmmaker offers comes too late in the film to be of consequence or entertainment value.

The Saving Graces and Consequences of Style over Substance  

As said before, the cinematography and visual aesthetic are the only saving grace of this film. The shots are dramatically lit, lush, eerie, and filled with fog-illuminating neon signs. The setting and set design provide a beautiful backdrop that could have elevated a good script into a great movie but, unfortunately, in this instance, served only to mitigate the effects of a poorly written script. The score was, at times, perfectly matched to the scene in expert fashion, and at other times felt as though a choir of angels was stuck in hell, forced to repeat the same three notes. Then the editing took it over the top with crossfades, silent picture-style title cards delineating chapters, and unnecessary filters. The team appeared to be throwing the kitchen sink at this film in the editing room only to keep adding fluff that failed to fill the cracks instead of building on the existing work. 

At times the camera would cut away from a line of dialogue to show a still image of the person being discussed. In another part, a monologue is given to the camera in the first person without the audience knowing who is the intended recipient or why the character is speaking. It was too much style for the lack of substance in the story; however, the effort and attention to detail did not go unnoticed. The aesthetic was at its best during long foggy, lantern-lit walks through dense brush and was of less service during daytime scenes. 

Final Thoughts

Offseason had a strong production value for a low-budget horror film but lacked a story compelling enough to keep the viewer’s attention let alone move them to give a recommendation. It could have been worse, but it isn’t a movie worth rewatching.

Offseason

Offseason (2021) Official Shudder Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Author

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Mark DeCastro is a current MFA student at LIU studying Writing and Producing for TV. He has previously completed his BA in Psychology at Johns Hopkins University with minors in Creative Writing, Film, and Theatre Studies. He hopes to pursue a career in writing for stages, screens, and shelves.