Mike’s Review: Offseason (2021) (SXSW Festival)

★★.5 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Mickey Keating.

Pulling off the perfect Lovecraftian film is a feat like no other.  It’s been tried again and again. You might even say film makers repeated attempts to crawl inside Mr. Lovecraft’s tortured brain is rife with peril, failure, and madness. Or more to the point, it’s a cursed mission. Many have attempted to bring Lovecraft to the silver screen and most have failed. In the case, of 2021’s Offseason, it’s not so much a failure, but a dull attempt. 

Directed by Mickey Keating (Carnage Park, Pod, and Darling), Offseason follows a young woman, Mary Aldrich (Jocelin Donahue of House of the Devil), who is forced to return to desolate island to deal with unfortunate vandalism of her mother’s grave site. Joining Mary in her stormy quest is her dullard boyfriend George (Joe Swanberg) who attempts to bring some sanity to Mary’s insistence that she simply cannot leave her mother’s grave disassembled. 

Mary and George have one way in and one way out. The island is closing for the season and once the bridge is closed they’re stuck, maybe eternally, with an odd collection of townies, coastal refuse, and peculiar Chtulu-like shapes and vines. 

Scary DVDs! Woo!
Mary you might want to turn around.

Director Keating shoe-horns in a humdrum bit of flash back exposition involving Mary’s mother Ava (Melora Walters) a failed actor dealing with pinch of dementia and a dash of possession brought to her by the old ones. Mary’s mother, as well as her coastal cohorts, may have written a Lovecraftian-sized check that none of their butts can cash. 

Having turned in a slew of stellar acting performances in the past, Offseason is entirely a vehicle for Jocelin Donahue, but little rises and little falls. The performance is largely a flat one that leaves the viewers confused about whether they’re supposed to be rooting for Mary’s plight, or hoping that her level-headed square boyfriend is able to escape the clutches of Lone Palm Beach. 

Offseason contains a moderate scare or two, but never is able to manufacture any prolonged tension or dread. The scares are relatively fleeting and the story, while an interesting one, is better suited for an economical short film. 

If it’s coastal Cthulu and undead cults that you’re after, give 1973’s Messiah of Evil a go. Unlike, Offseason, which looks to be somewhat derivative treatment of the same story, Messiah of Evil employs some dark and foreboding scenes that will have you questioning your next trip to the beach. Just splashing a little Chutlu mythos on the screen simply isn’t enough to create a fully compelling and complete film. Filmmakers should continue to try to tackle Lovecraft, but they’ll also need to understand that their attempts will bring nothing but sadness and misery. 

Offeason had its premiere at the 2021 SXSW Festival. Offseason is likely Rated R.

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