Sat. Jun 25th, 2022

Opening with a letter advising celebrity offspring Marie (Jocelin Donahue, “The House Of The Devil”) to come to her mother’s hometown to inspect her grave for vandalism—shades of the original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”—“Offseason” makes aesthetically pleasing use out of an abandoned Florida beach town in winter. The premise recalls the 1973 deep cut “‘Messiah Of Evil,” with a hint of 1979’s “Tourist Trap” thanks to all the mannequins. It’s a simple story, driven by generational curses and a Lovecraftian demigod who demands terrible sacrifices from the defenseless townies of Lone Palm Beach, Florida. 

And once Marie and her boyfriend George (Joe Swanberg) cross the lone drawbridge that leads into (and out of) Lone Palm Beach, their fates are already determined. That lends a certain aimlessness to the plot, which often seems to be running in circles just to keep moving. But given that Keating’s primary concern as a director is creating atmosphere—not an inherently bad thing, to be clear—this point isn’t as tedious as it could be. The tropical gothic aesthetic is appealing enough to carry the film at least part way, building a “neon through the fog” aura out of saw palmettos, chilly beaches, mushy swamp graveyards, overseas highways, overcast skies, and several thousand gallons of fog machine fluid. 

The sound editing, by longtime Keaton collaborator Shawn Duffy, is also a spooky treat, utilizing a full range of hair-raising sounds from sinister whispering to animalistic shrieks. There’s no doubt that this director and his crew know how to extract maximum production value out of minimal resources: For example, the visual effects are sparingly applied. But the awe-inspiring nightmare imagery they create looms over the film, both literally and metaphorically. 

The performances are more mixed. Underappreciated genre asset Richard Brake (“31,” “Bingo Hell”) makes an outsized impression in a small role, thanks to his impassioned speech on a windswept bridge once everything goes to shit. But unless Keating is paying homage to the inert monologues, overly declarative dialogue, and stilted line readings in films from genre masters like Lucio Fulci, those elements of the film simply don’t come together in a convincing way. The leads in particular struggle to find their footing: Swanberg just seems out of place, while Donahue never strikes a balance between panic and resignation that really works for her character. 

By admin