I like Mickey Keating’s films. His quirky stories, odd characters, and fanboy aesthetics mix and match from unexpected places and whip up things entirely unique. He clearly loves horror movies. He seems to love everything from the classics to cheesy chillers. Visually his films are stunning and are deeply complimentary of stylish cinema from the ’60s and ’70s. While Darling is a little too style over substance, the apparent homage to films like Rosemary’s Baby is strong. Pod is an absolute gem. The tense family thriller is beautifully scripted and ambiguous enough for hours of speculation. Offseason has a similar feel as his other films with its unanswered family questions and bizarre characters.
OffSeason makes smart use of a sparsely populated Florida island in the winter. It is eerily quiet, isolated, and strange. The story is simple but direct and reminiscent of Tourist Trap(1979) and The Dain Curse in that there are a ton of creepy mannequins and a generational curse. Fueled by an Eldergod who demands sacrifices from the reluctant townies, Offseason is a fun film with some genuinely scary moments. Although most of the scares come from familiar places like disorienting turns that go nowhere and milky-eyed octogenarians who cackle and stare their way through scenes, they are still effective.
Marie, scream queen Jocelin Donahue(The House of the Devil, Dr. Sleep), has been called to the tiny island of Lone Palm Beach to settle a problem with her mother’s gravesite. Curiously her mother specifically did not want to be buried here but, despite her explicit will, finds the tiny island her final resting place. Once she and her boyfriend George(Joe Swanberg) cross the bridge to the island, their fate is sealed. Knowing the likely outcome of their story takes nothing away from the fun. Primarily this is due to Keating’s obsessive attention to atmospheric detail. He understands how to craft a shot filled with moody shadowed foliage, curtains of fog, and icy beaches. This place feels cold and very wrong before anything happens.
Performances are largely good, with a few memorable scene stealers in Richard Blake’s(31, Mandy), who make the most out of a tiny role. His bonkers speech once things descend into chaos is a highlight. In addition, Keating’s appreciation for Lucio Fulci’s penchant for strained dialogue is noticeable, particularly in George, who rarely seems comfortable with his conversations, and Marie who can’t decide if she is resigned to her fate or shocked to find herself there. Ava(Melora Walters), Marie’s Mom, opens the film with a tense monologue about inescapable fate and monsters. This promise gets delivered on early in Offseason.
A stilted weirdness to everything makes the film even more peculiar. You are never quite sure if the choices were jokes or intentional, lending an air of unpredictability that I liked, especially when things really go off the rails. I tend to believe Keating and long-time editor Valerie Krulfeifer are intentional about their pacing choices. Anyone who has seen the B movies of the ’70s knows the bizarre pauses in speeches and dramatic glances that feel like they might be more at home in a soap opera than a serious horror movie. Offseason has plenty of those to spare. Sound designer Shawn Duffy mixes a compelling soundtrack of bumps and boos that contribute to an overall vibe of Lovecraftian horrors. Coupled with the constant barrage of fog, the film is thick with unknowable supernatural frights.
Keating knows how to deliver a conventional horror movie. However, he also knows how to curate a pastiche that feels like the viewer is in on the joke. Offseason is a little bit of both. There are really creepy moments that sit alongside others so laughably strange you aren’t sure what to do with them. That’s the genius of this film. I like a good tribute, and I have enjoyed more of those B movies than I care to admit. Keating’s film may not be for everyone, but for those of us that are in on the joke, it’s perfectly imperfect. Offseason is premiering on Shudder on June 10th, 2022.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.