REVIEW: Offseason

 Offseason, directed by Mickey Keating, is a slow burn atmospheric horror released on Shudder.  Currently I am in a free trial of Shudder, and have watched a few of their exclusive films, each with varying quality.  Top of the list is Mad God, a stop motion film that is an eery and hellish visual delight.  On the other end of the spectrum, they have films like Great White, a very mixed bundle of possible greatness and squandered opportunities.  Offseason seems to split the difference and land somewhere between those two in terms of quality.

Mary (Jocelin Donahue) receives a letter to inform her that her deceased mother's grave has been vandalized, and is told that she needs to immediately travel to the island her mother is buried on to figure out what to do next.  Honestly, this seemed like a wee bit of a stretch to me.  This creates the reason for our protagonist to end up on an eternally creepy island, but it comes across as a bit of a weak contrivance.  

Travelling with her boyfriend George (Joe Swanberg), the two head to visit the holiday island off the shores of Florida.  They are arriving the day before the bridge is closed for the season, which seems a little odd at first, but the unravelling of the plot later allows this to make sense.

After making it to the island, Keating relies heavily on the cinematography of Mac Fisken, who had worked with Keating on earlier films.  A mood of mystery and unseen dangers is created nicely through the camera, even though the script gets in the way of this at times.

I'm all for slow burn and atmospheric horrors.  They can end up being the ones that chill and haunt the viewer the most, but some pacing issues in Offseason create a vacuum that sucks the tension out at times.  There are two sequences in particular that outstay their welcome and drag on for too long.  This comes across as feeling like some padding of the runtime, which is already lean at an hour and twenty three minutes.  Everything will be revealed in time in Offseason, but getting there is a bit of a slog at times.

Donahue delivers a solid performance as the daughter of a famous actress who is trying to figure out what is going on.  The cemetery caretaker is nowhere to be found, and it is apparent to her that the situation is devolving into a nightmare that she must escape.  Swanberg does George as well as could be done, as there are some issues with his character and the writing of their relationship.  Halfway through the film I couldn't remember if they were romantically involved or if they were just semi-close friends.  The movement of their characters and their lines ceases to come across as portraying the relationship that we were told they had.

Developments in the second act of the film come out of nowhere, as Mary begins unveiling knowledge that we maybe would have expected to come sooner.  The reason for this odd holding off of information is more about keeping everything mysterious and not about staying true to the characters.  Thankfully, there is still an enticing atmosphere to the film that kept me engaged.

And then it bottomed out.  The finale deviated from the uniqueness that Keating had been trying to portray, and it quickly turned into a generic ending.  There was a lot that still had me interested at that point in the film, mainly Donahue's performance, but I checked out as everything was wrapping up.  This movie veered from something I would recommend (despite its failings) into just another horror film.

As much as I enjoyed aspects like the slow unraveling of the plot to some performances and the mystery, its shortcomings were just a bit too much for me.  This was an interesting film that just got caught up in a few places.  I have walked away being interested in checking out a few other films of Keating's, but also without massive expectations for what I will see.

Rating - 2.5 out of 4 stars