Failing to live up to its promise, “Offseason” feels more like a pale imitation to other works. [SXSW Film Festival]

If you ever even mutter the words “silent” and “hill” within seven words of each other in a sentence within a 10-meter radius of me, buckle in because I’m going to tell you everything I know about the Silent Hill series of video games and movies, and exactly why you should respect (some of) them as true horror masterpieces. I truly wish this were an exaggeration, but it’s my Achilles’ heel of underrated media franchises. Because of that, there are times when I see elements of Silent Hill pop in and out of various other pieces of media that turn me into that Leonardo DiCaprio meme of him pointing at the television. Offseason, a film by Mickey Keating, is a horror film that I was unable to do that sort of pointing for, because I’m unable to hold my arm up for 83 straight minutes. I just wish that something so heavily inspired by something I love could’ve felt more…well…inspired.

Marie (Jocelin Donahue) receives a letter telling her that her mother’s (Melora Walters) grave on a remote Southern island has been desecrated and that her presence is requested to confer with how to proceed with fixing it. Traveling to the unnamed island with her partner, George (Joe Swanberg), she soon finds herself trapped after a storm closes the only bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Fearful of the town and its strange inhabitants, Marie begins to realize that she was called to the island for much more than what was detailed on paper, with a sinister force having a hold on the entire island and its population.

For something that is basically Silent Hill mixed with an episode of The X-Files, Offseason has relatively little to offer in the way of genuine scares or an engaging narrative. The reason I so quickly compare it to other pieces of media is because that’s what it feels like: an empty shell of something simply emulating other things it has seen done before and done better. Singular elements of the film’s production have a chance to shine, but there’s no clear or cohesive picture being painted here. It’s simply a collection of parts refusing to work with one another.


Jocelin Donahue in Mickey Keating’s OFFSEASON. Photo courtesy of SXSW.

It’s not all doom-and-gloom, as the is generally affable in their gravely underwritten roles. Donahue is unsurprisingly effective in the lead role, and more directors should take after Mike Flanagan in Doctor Sleep and actually place her in major studio films, if only because she’s often so much better than the smaller films she finds herself in. Marie isn’t a particularly moving character, but Donahue injects her with an amount of charm and intensity that makes following her not very tedious.

And from a technical standpoint, Offseason is one of the more impressive films of all of SXSW. While not particularly unique in many things it does, the cinematography from Mac Fisken is incredibly clean and attractive, utilizing the atmosphere of the island to the film’s advantage. There is a tendency for the image to use a flashing effect in scenes with compromised lighting, and that was both a bit irritating and tough on the eyes (I’d go so far as to issue an epilepsy warning). Visual effects, while sparse, use their limited screen time to create something that I wish the film could’ve been given more of a budget for. It was in those moments of promise where I felt like Offseason really fumbled the ball.

It’s hard to recommend Offseason when much of it feels like a pale imitation of other, better works of horror that scare, provoke, and move much easier than this does in its short runtime. Its promise, and failure to fulfill said promise, is what stings the most here, as other films with similar issues usually lack the potential to begin with to pull off something successful. With a palpable style, effective performances and technical savvy, Offseason could’ve have been a bit more effective in its execution, but even with those admirable elements, without any inspiration or depth, it all just fades away by the time the credits roll.

Screening during the 2021 SXSW Film Festival beginning March 17th, 2021.

Final Score: 2 out of 5.

SXSW 2021 laurels

Categories: Reviews, streaming

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