FrightFest 2021: Offseason

After receiving a letter informing her that her mother’s grave has been desecrated, Marie (Jocelin Donahue) heads to the island where she is buried. With the bridge back to the mainland about to go up, she must flee the freaky fishing town or risks being stranded there for a year or possibly eternity.

As a teenager I went on holiday to Kavos at the beginning of September when the bars had closed and the weather had turned. Offseason perfectly captures that uncanny sense of a vacation island frozen in time between summers like an abandoned theme park; Westworld with all the robots switched off. This maximalist atmosphere shrouds a slight narrative, which Kondos Marie’s story to the bare bones of nautical horror (ie. running away from malevolent seamen).

In flashbacks we see Marie’s mad mother (a brilliant Melora Walters) make portentous pronouncements about a demonic deal on the island, making for a spooky, stormy collision of H. P. Lovecraft and Lost (particularly when Marie watches a creaky instructional VHS on how to raise the bridge) – though a dearth of sympathetic characters makes the action much harder to invest than get lost in.

Director Mickey Keating does great work on a small budget, oppressive in his use of hyperstylised visuals and thunderous sound mixed so loud it literally shook the FrightFest auditorium. He shoots killer compositions in hazy greys as though squinting through the mist, an ambience that’s self-contained and deliriously eerie.

Effectively a less silly version of John Carpenter’s The Fog, Offseason is a salty slice of bereavement horror. Overcast, overscored and overpowering, it offers a clammy hand of comfort to anyone who feels trapped on an island.

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