Offseason, the new film from writer/director Mickey Keating (Pod, Carnage Park) opens with Ava Aldrich (Melora Walters, The Accursed, The Pale Door) addressing the viewer in a scene that recalls Marianna Hill’s warning at the start of Messiah of Evil.
That film involved a woman’s trip to a touristy coastal town in search of her missing and presumed dead father, Offseason opens with Marie Aldrich (Jocelin Donahue, All the Creatures Were Stirring, House of the Devil) heading to the touristy island where Ava is buried. It seems her grave was desecrated and her presence is required to remedy it.
As she and George (Joe Swanberg, Lace Crater, The Sacrament) arrive their trip is almost derailed. It seems the drawbridge to the island is raised during the offseason and the Bridge Man (Richard Brake, The Numbers Station, Tremors: Shrieker Island) only relents and lowers it after finding out why she’s there. He also warns them that after tomorrow it’ll be locked until spring.
Keating opens Offseason with tons of atmosphere and nods to not just Messiah of Evil but long shots of highways stretching across the ocean that recalls Fulci’s The Beyond. There’s a fog-enshrouded cemetery, overgrown with tropic vegetation that brings Zombie to mind as well as a carving on one of the stones that hints at Lovecraftian terrors to come.
It’s an effective opening despite the question of why Marie never found it odd that this couldn’t be handled by mail rather than requiring her to come there with the island about to be cut off like this. An expository monologue she gives around the half-hour mark only adds to that. Unfortunately, Offseason also relies on cliches like the bar full of locals that go silent when Marie and George enter. Or the cryptic message that Henry (Jeremy Gardner, After Midnight, The Mind’s Eye) gives her.
Offseason has an incredible look to it, Keating, once again working with his regular cinematographer Mac Fisken, manages to turn a vacation resort into something out of a nightmare. The score by Shayfer James serves to put an edge on the sense of dread the visuals create. The script on the other hand starts to resemble a low-budget mashup of the previously mentioned Messiah of Evil and Silent Hill. As a result, it swings wildly from effective to overly familiar. Although, since Messiah of Evil is something of a cult film, scenes influenced by it may not be that familiar to some viewers.
As a result, Offseason has some great moments, but never really comes together as a whole. Too much time is wasted on atmospheric but repetitive shots of Marie running through dark, deserted streets instead of building up the plot and giving a bit more explanation of what’s going on. I’m not sure if that’s by design or due to budget, but there really needed to be someone, or something, for Marie to interact with as she tries to escape. Instead, it all just sputters out and ends in an entirely predictable place.
Offseason really needed another revision to pull all of its elements together. Based on his past work I know Keating has the talent, and with four years between it and Psychopaths, the time to do it. But he didn’t and the result is a film that’s perfectly watchable but frustrating because of the opportunities it squanders.
RJLE Films will release Offseason In Select Theaters and to Digital and VOD platforms on March 10th. Shudder also turns up in the credits so I would assume it will be available there in due time. You can check RJLE’s Facebook page for more information.