Monday, June 19, 2023

Offseasonal Depression


It can sometimes be challenging to be a horror fan with little interest in HP Lovecraft. There you are, enjoying a book or movie, fully invested in the story, and suddenly, there are tentacles. You wonder why there are tentacles only to find fan reviews praising said property as being "Lovecraftian." Oh, you say, so that's why there are tentacles.

Onto the feature.

Quick Plot: Marie Aldrich has been summoned to Lone Palm Beach, an isolated Florida town separated from the mainland by a decisive drawbridge. When spring hits, it's a thriving tourist mecca but in the titular Offseason, things are a bit dreary.

It's fitting, since Marie's return stems from unpleasantries. Her late mother, once a successful though eventually unstable film actress, was buried in the island's cemetery and her grave has recently been desecrated. Marie enlists on-again/off-again boyfriend Peter to join her to straighten the matter out but when they arrive, they can't seem to find a single helpful soul.

Sure, there's Emily, the creepy florist who wanders the graveyard with a too-big smile, and the town's only restaurant is popping with revelers who seem ready for a verse of The Landlord's Daughter until Marie and Peter sour their mood. Rightly unnerved, Peter and Marie decide to leave, which goes about as well as you think. 

Written and directed by Mickey Keating, Offseason owes more than a few dinners from the frozen food aisle to the great Messiah of Evil and perhaps an order of fried calamari to HP Lovecraft. As you may have guessed, the sweet little town of Lone Palm Beach carries a deep darkness (and I don't just mean the fact that the movie's lighting is extremely absent). Some time ago, the townspeople made a pact with an aquatic demon and if there's one thing aquatic demons don't appreciate, it's betrayal. 

Marie didn't grow up in Lone Palm Beach and only learned of its existence during her mother's last home hospice days. She assumed the unusual stories were a side effect of her mother's derailing mind, but as she searches for the separated Peter and a path back to the mainland, Marie realizes you can't escape your heritage. 

I'm of very mixed mind on Offseason. I was fully involved and never bored but in truth, I can't exactly call this a well-constructed film. I'm a sucker for this kind of story but if I step back and objectively look at its construction, it comes up pretty short. 

We can barely see what's going on in its first act. Genre stalwart Jocelin Donahue is always a sympathetic presence, but the film is so deliberate in limiting her character specificities to the effect that we have no idea who she actually is (there's a throwaway line about her being a "problem child" that doesn't in any way fit the woman we're presented with). There are neat touches in some of the visuals (particularly some mannequin reveals) but they feel better in concept than execution. Overall, this left me thinking it was a better script than end product.

And yet, all that being said, I ultimately enjoyed my time watching Offseason. I'd say I saw what Keating was trying to do rather than experienced what he accomplished, but I liked what he was aiming for, if that makes any sense. It reminded me of the experience watching Dark Waters, another Lovecraftian folk horror involving a young woman discovering a secret island where her parent owed a debt. That film made less sense but for me, cast the right spell so that the mood overcame its storytelling shortcomings. Offseason doesn't quite have that, but I appreciate the effort.

High Points
Right as I was noting how strange it was that Keating's Carnage Park was effective because it was so gorgeously sun-drenched and how strange it was that Offseason's color palette was basically denim during a wash cycle, I reached a genuinely interesting visually directed scene where Marie confronts the town's shifty handyman illuminated in spurts by the flashing red light of the bridge. It's unique and effective, and shows much better instincts than the entire first act

Low Points
But that doesn't entirely excuse aforementioned denim wash cycle

Lessons Learned
Just because you're cursed doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you

VCRs will forever be the most durable home media technology

The bigger the curse, the better the flowers

Offseason doesn't really hold together, but if you're a sucker for this kind of story like me, you'll still probably find yourself entertained. Streaming now on Shudder. 


  1. I didn't much care for this one. I actually like Lovecraft a lot... but not so much the lazy way most go about invoking his Mythos. I think the problem hear was that the whole myster of the creepy town was not very intriguing to me.
    That said, I'm not a fan of Messiah of Evil either... I've never understood the praise that movie gets.