Film Review: Reinventing The Hero’s Journey With ‘Starfish’ On Blu-Ray

by Rachel Bellwoar

What happens if you ignore the call to adventure? In his feature film debut, director, A.T. White, throws a wrench in the hero’s journey by having his hero decide to stay home. More precisely, Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) holes herself away in her best friend’s apartment. Grace (Christina Masterson) died recently and Starfish is the story of what happens when Aubrey’s grief manifests itself as killer creatures.

Hypothetically, if Aubrey finds the mixtapes Grace left for her, the signal released from playing them in order will send the creatures back home, but Aubrey isn’t interested in tackling her grief, and if Starfish has some sci-fi and horror elements, the emotional truth of White’s direction and Gardner’s performance are what register the most.

My full review of Starfish is available here, but this article is on the Blu-Ray release. In an introduction, that speaks to how recently this release came together, White mentions being in quarantine and that some bonus features had to be scrapped due to Covid-19. White doesn’t mention which bonus features were lost, and Starfish already has more extras than a lot of movies that come out on Blu-Ray, but there’s one thing notably missing and that’s an interview with Gardner. Starfish comes close to being a definitive release, and she does appear in the ‘Making Of’ featurette, but there’s no lengthy conversation with her.

Both Q&A’s at the Alamo Drafthouse feature White and a moderator. The March one has better sound than the one recorded in February. It would’ve been cool if some of White’s short films could’ve been included. Some snippets are shown but, since short films aren’t always easy to find, this could’ve been a way to get them out to the masses.

The ‘Making Of’ featurette covers all three stages of production and is one of the must-see extras on this set. There’s a lot of good stuff here, from location shooting to visual effects, like the motion capture that was used for some of the creatures. Tezuka Productions (Astro Boy) worked on the animated sequence and White’s score (which had to be completed in nine days) is included as a separate CD.

Usually deleted scenes are standard fare, but White talks over his so you get to learn more about each scene and why they were cut. There’s a completely different opening scene that, had it remained, might have been used to launch a Starfish sequel.

Last but not least, Starfish comes with two commentaries. The first is with White and Alberto Bañares, who was the DP on Starfish. The second is with White and Alexander Chard, who host a podcast together on horror movies called “We Are Geeks.” White recorded the Bañares one first and expresses some concern that they’ll be overlap with the “We Are Geeks” commentary, which there is. Because I listened to the “We Are Geeks” commentary first, that may be my favorite, but both are everything you could want from a commentary, with the conversation lasting the whole time and a lot of insider knowledge. In the original script Aubrey never left the apartment and the biggest regret White has is not getting to film a musical number that was dropped because of time.

For anyone on the fence, Starfish can be streamed on Hulu, though White mentions in the “We Are Geeks” commentary that Hulu cropped at least one of the scenes so it’s not in the right aspect ratio. To see Starfish the way it’s meant to be seen, Altered Innocence’s Blu-Ray release is the one to add to your collection.

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