Does the end of the world matter if your world has already ended? That question is at the heart of writer/director Al White’s debut film Starfish. It’s a film that uses science fiction and alien invasion tropes to look at emotion. Especially the emotion of grief.
Aubrey (Virginia Gardner, Monster Party, Halloween) just buried her best friend Grace (Christina Masterson, Power Rangers Megaforce, Toxic Shark). She lets herself into Grace’s apartment and crashes on the couch. She awakes to find everything has changed. The ground is covered in snow, there’s no phone or electricity, and black smoke billows in the distance. And there are alien invaders in the streets.
Now Aubrey must fight off her grief and the memories of a recently ended relationship that haunt her. Because Grace has left seven mixtapes hidden around town. And they may hold the key to defeating the aliens.
The scenes showing Aubrey first venturing out, slowly discovering what’s going on made me think Starfish was going to be a fairly traditional end-of-the-world film. A rural I Am Legend. But things quickly take a turn into the truly bizarre. A voice on a walkie-talkie that knows who she is. The message Grace left for her. And the theory that led Grace to make the tapes. And then there’s the animated segment and the bit about breaking the fourth wall…
Starfish though is as much a film of mood and emotion as of events. Aubrey is staying at the retro-chic apartment of the friend she lost contact with as she struggled with a fatal illness. And she’s haunted by sadness and guilt over it. She’s struggling to get past that, but the tapes are hidden in their old hangouts, forcing her mind back to them. But she still needs to get over her guilt and do what needs to be done. It’s this, not the aliens, (as scary as they are), that is the focus here.
White is also a musician, (singer/songwriter of UK band ‘Ghostlight’), and he’s given Starfish a haunting, classical music based soundtrack that reinforces the film’s moods. It’s interrupted at points by relevant pieces on indie pop from bands like Sparklehorse, Sigur Ros and, of course, Ghostlight.
Starfish left me in a weird, melancholy kind of mood. It’s a strange film though, so I guess that’s fitting. It’s had a successful festival run and a limited theatrical release. It hits VOD/digital in the US, UK, AUS, NZ, and Canada on May 28th. You can check for updates and release dates for other countries on the film’s Facebook page and website.