Writer/ director Mickey Keating has been fairly prolific since releasing his debut Ultra Violence in 2011. Over the years he’s established something of a cottage industry with a repertory of familiar faces like Jeremy Gardner (The Battery, After Midnight), and Larry Fessenden (Session 9, Jug Face). Offseason sees Keating taking on a lo-fi piece of cosmic horror that hangs heavy with references to Lovecraft and John Carpenter and a certain video game series.  It’s watchable enough, and shot beautifully, but severely lacks its own identity.

Marie (Jocelin Donahue) has recently lost her mother Ava (Melora Walters) to dementia. Ava’s body has been taken back to her old home of Lone Palm, a Floridian island. The problem is that Ava, in a rare instance of lucidity, had insisted that this should not happen. Arriving in Lone Palm following a letter saying Ava’s grave had been desecrated, Marie and boyfriend George (Joe Swanberg) find themselves arriving as the island shuts down at the end of the tourist season. When the year-round residents begin to act strangely, Marie and George realise that they’re stranded on the island.

Wreathed in swirling fog and portentous dread, come offseason it’s difficult to believe that Lone Palm is ever thronged with revellers toasting to reptilian leather under the Floridian sun. It feels like Marie and George have stumbled straight into Silent Hill. It’s arguable that Keating manages to channel the atmosphere of that beloved game more directly than Christophe Gans‘ official adaptation on a fraction of the budget. But like the choking mist, it’s all ephemeral with little to grasp on beyond the admirable atmosphere. Even with a truncated running time and a timeline compressed into a few days, Offseason feels like a concept stretched artificially stretched to breaking.

That said, it isn’t terrible by any means. Donahue is a capable and resourceful lead, and genre veteran Richard Brake (31, 3 From Hell) cameos to great effect as the Bridge Man, the operator who cuts the island off. Keating also orchestrates some intriguing scenes such as Marie and George’s first encounter with the patrons of the local pub, which will either remind viewers of the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ scene in An American Werewolf in London, or ‘The Legend of Old Gregg‘ from The Mighty Boosh. It also must be said that he swings for the fences with an audacious denouement. The main issue is that too much of Offseason is technique shorn of real thematic depth and an authentic voice. Low-budget auteurs should be treasured, but Mickey Keating is here still attached to the umbilical cord of his formative inspirations.

Screening on Shudder from Fri 10 Jun 2022