South by Southwest has a special “Midnighters” screening section that features provocative late night subject matter that can be scary, sexy, funny, and controversial. One of the eight films in the section, Offseason, held its world premiere during the event.
Marie Aldrich (Jocelin Donahue) is a young woman who receives a letter requesting her to visit a southern island to settle some business regarding her late mother. When she arrives with a friend, the popular tourist destination is entering its offseason and is closing down until the following spring when the weather becomes warmer and better. That only leaves her a limited amount of time to settle her affairs and head back to New York City. However, she experiences some complications and begins to question if there are ulterior motives to luring her to the island.
Offseason is an entertaining horror with great scares. The accompanying cacophonous score ratchets up the tension and suspense through the use of screeching violins. The dark, foggy, and misty setting creates an eerie feeling and unfocused shots makes the viewer question if they can believe what they see. Everything about the island seems off from the locals to the roads and there are moments that make the hair on the back of your neck raise as Marie dives deeper.
The whole plot plays like a mystery and things become more in focus the more secrets Marie uncovers about the island. Flashbacks are effectively used to fill in the blanks as the story progresses and many loose threads from throughout begin to come together in a pretty skillful way. Writer and director, Mickey Keating, does a good job putting all these pieces together.
Donahue, who has a history in horror, does much of the heavy lifting from an acting standpoint. She is able to keep the narrative compelling, especially since she appears on screen by herself for long stretches of the film. Although, she also spends significant time just running around or walking through spooky buildings which can get a bit tedious. Furthermore, her character, Marie, suffers from the common genre trope of poor judgement and it takes a real big suspension of disbelief to buy her decision making.
Another criticism of Offseason is that not all the reveals pay off. There are details introduced about Marie’s past and her relationships with her friend that are made with a big show but don’t have any real impact. It’s better not to mention them to avoid the distraction and keep the script more focused.
Despite some gripes, Offseason is an enjoyable horror film with great scares and an intriguing mystery.
SXSW 2021 runs from March 16-21