Last week, indie horror filmmaker Mikey Keating’s latest effort, Offseason, made its ways to VOD platforms. To date, Keating has quietly carved out a nice little niche in horror with movies like Carnage Park and Darling. With horror veterans Jocelin Donahue, Joe Swanberg, and Richard Brake onboard, Offseason promises quiet chills set against the backdrop of a Lovecraftian-inspired story. Most critics have been impressed with the eerie results.
For years, Marie Aldrich was estranged from her famous, celebrity actress mother, Ava. Before she passed away, Ava shared bizarre stories of the island community where she grew up. Months following her mother’s death, Marie receives a strange letter – someone has vandalized her mother’s grave. Along with her boyfriend, George, Marie returns to the remote island town during its winter offseason. With its drawbridge raised, stranding them on the island, Marie and George are trapped and forced to confront her mother’s secret.
Offseason Slow Burns Towards Eerie Cosmic Horror
Indie horror director Mickey Keating (Carnage Park, Darling) has slowly built up a low-key impressive filmography. Here, Keating opts for atmosphere and style in place of overt scares. That is, Offseason doesn’t feature much in the way of jump scares. But its opening scene packs a good shock and jump. And the pacing leans towards slow-burn, though Keating doesn’t let things drag. Offseason quickly establishes a foreboding tone while also doling out enough suspenseful moments to ensure audience investment. Keating’s story – despite being a bit threadbare – also offers up an intriguing mystery. Brief flashbacks and a screenplay that dangles information here and there fill the movie’s slower moments.
Offseason quickly establishes a foreboding tone while also doling out enough suspenseful moments to ensure audience investment.
To some extent, Offseason benefits from an open premise – it’s not immediately clear where Keating is going to take the story. As the thriller increasingly embraces its Lovecraftian roots, Keating taps into the same surrealist nightmare atmosphere characteristic of several cult 70s horror movies. Maybe some misty daytime scenes will remind horror fans of Silent Hill minus the video game monstrosities. Occasionally, Offseason’s ideas outpace the budget but Keating uses lighting and editing to conjure up some effectively disturbing images. Everything culminates in an understated and haunting climax that honors the story told up to that point.
Offseason Thin on Characters, Bolstered by Strong Lead Performance
By and large, Offseason leans heavily on Jocelin Donahue playing ‘Maria Aldrich’. In addition to its small cast, Keating’s screenplay doesn’t delve into any of the other characters. Of course, Donahue has plenty of experience in horror movies. From House of the Devil to All the Creatures Were Stirring to Doctor Sleep, Aldrich has indie and big screen credentials. A talented and capable performer, Donahue convinces as a grieving woman trapped by fate and increasingly bizarre circumstances. By the movie’s climax, she absolutely sells the confusion, fear, and desperation fitting of her character’s situation. On the other hand, Joe Swanberg (You’re Next, V/H/S) feels misplaced in Offseason as he’s tasked with very little.
But veteran character actor Richard Brake manages to stand out in a small supporting role.
Yes, Keating’s focus on atmosphere over story and character poses some issues. Donahue, for instance, mostly just needs to react to things happening around her. But veteran character actor Richard Brake (31, 3 From Hell, The Dare) manages to stand out in a small supporting role. Credited only as ‘The Bridge Man’, Brake’s frantic appearance ensures the audience knows not all is right even before Maria and George set foot on the island. And Brake’s monologue later in the movie raises stakes without overdoing the exposition. It’s a reminder that more horror movies should be casting the actor.
Offseason a Quietly Effective Horror Movie
If it’s light on story and action, Offseason drenches itself in atmosphere. With its swirling fog, grey-soaked beaches, and eccentric townsfolk, Offseason taps into a mood that recall 70s surrealist horror. And Keating ensures the movie’s slow-burn dials up steadily enough to catch up with the eventual Lovecraftian elements. Maybe a little more Richard Brake would have upped some of the terror. But there’s an intriguing mystery around tales of a generational curse alongside creepy imagery. Whether you find the ending understated and subtly unnerving or just unnerving will be subjective. Regardless Offseason is a welcome addition to cosmic Lovecraftian horror.