Apart from Angus Scrimm, the scary old fart in the Phantasm series, there are no familiar faces in this film. This time Angus plays a nuanced sensitive role rather than a scary old fart. The two central characters (Christina Campenella & Don Wood) turn in sufficiently effective performances as a New York couple who've come to a roadside town in Maine where Rick hopes to find peace enough to write his play, while Kathryn supports him with a crappy job as library assistant.
They rent a one-room motel apartment cheap for "the off season" & Rick a la Jack the dull boy in Kubrick's The Shining immediately begins to pretend to be working on his play, while Kathryn struggles to support them without recipricosity of any kind. Rick descends into alcoholism & Kathryn becomes deathly ill. Rick blames Kathryn for his failures in life; Kathryn strives not to become bitter that she has given more than she has received in the relationship.
There is forever a sense that they had been doing fine before they came to that tiny apartment. Something in the room itself is afflicting their relationship. Images of spiteful, guilt-ridden, or frightened ghosts startle first Rick, then Kathryn, but they are incapable of sharing their experiences.
An ugly mold appears on the wall behind the bed. A large reappearing bloodstain appears in the bed itself. Much of the time the creepiest things about their situation are mundane horrors like noisy neighbors, a train that roars alongside the motel at night, a senile landlady, indifferent or hostile faces of strangers, lack of control over the thermostat, a claustrophobic space that would test the capacity of even untroubled lovers to cope with the lack of any personal space.
It is in large part a film about character & a deteriorating relationship. If there had been no supernatural element these characters might still have been interesting. That they are struggling with something intangible yet horrible adds a level of eeriness & menace & suspense that is very effective.
When the "mystery" starts to unravel as to what haunts the room & why, it isn't as interesting as it could've been, but it'll get by. The film has a coda that does not satisfy as a climax or outcome. But in the main this is a surprisingly good, intelligent, unsettling little horror film, not in-your-face horror but a subtler well-told ghost story. If all one wanted from a low budget horror film was buckets of blood, this wouldn't be it, but I found The Off Season refreshingly thoughtful & well done.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl