Offseason (2022) Is Awash in Cosmic Horror and Strong Direction
First Non-Festival Release: March 11, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Mickey Keating
Writer: Mickey Keating
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Joe Swanberg, Melora Walters
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A vague and urgent letter forces Marie (Jocelin Donahue) to return to her dead mother’s childhood home and investigate reported vandalism to her grave. In tow is her boyfriend George (Joe Swanberg), who is supportive but utterly clueless in how to help her. Once they cross over onto the island, they find the place suspiciously empty aside from the thick curtains of white fog that envelop nearly everything. Their attempts to interact with the townsfolk elicit little progress. Their attempt to drive home is thwarted when they get into a car accident and fail to make it across the bridge before it goes up for the winter season. The horror that awaits them in the town when they regain consciousness is unimaginable.
Dripping in cosmic horror and island mystique, Offseason is a quiet, little Lovecraftian horror film that sufficiently satisfies with solid atmosphere.
The story of Offseason follows a nightmarish journey focusing on haunting visuals rather than a traditional story. Interweaving flashback sequences to Marie and Ava spending their last moments together, the film juxtaposes the loss of a loved one with the real fear of losing oneself. It follows a very Lovecraftian version of horror where things make little sense, and the inevitability of its ending reverberates through every moment of the film.
Speaking of lacking plot, there isn’t much to the characters in Offseason either. Trapped in a bad situation, there aren’t many opportunities for most characters besides the mother daughter duo to grow beyond their brief screen time. Jocelin Donahue gives a steady performance comfortably selling the role of a devoted daughter trying to do right for her mom, even in death. She truly carries the film on her back, as she is often the only one onscreen for long stretches of time. The fact that the film doesn’t drag is a testament to the director and her talent.
Director Mickey Keating is known for jumping into the deep end of many different subgenres of horror, often doing projects back-to-back that are starkly different in style, tone, plot, and characters. Offseason is no different with him throwing his hat into the ring of the inexplicably supernatural. Even-paced, this eerie and unnerving film allows Keating to channel a mix of cosmic horror tropes with some dazzling and inspired Italian-esque shots and scenery. It also mixes some timeless and timely messages on cyclical trauma and how it has a tendency to stick around when left unresolved.
Offseason is beautiful to watch. Swirling landscapes topped with oceans of fog against the roaring sea helps build the isolated atmosphere and isolated feeling of terror. The sets build throughout the film in glorious ways. No details are spared in making this empty town look lived in, despite the absence of so many people. The dreariness of Lone Palm Beach aspires to eclipse your wildest nightmares. Unexpectedly, Offseason has some off the wall moments that necessitate solid effects work and thankfully the film delivers. No matter what the film is going for when building its antagonists, it looks real and terrifying.
Ultimately, there isn’t much different about Offseason than many of the films that have taken on the outsider type plot it holds but that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable horror film. Donahue’s competent lead performance and the sleek direction from Keating helps make Offseason a consistently spooky chiller. It also helps that it is riding on the successes of the recent resurgence of cosmic horror and that its cinematography is absolutely stunning. If you are into more dreamlike horror films that rely more on unfolding in a delirious manner than a straightforward plot, odds are this will be up your alley. If so, you might want to take a trip to Lone Palm Beach and see for yourself what horror awaits.
Overall Score? 6/10