THE OFF SEASON
Directed by James Felix McKenney
Produced by James Felix McKenney
Written by James Felix McKenney
Director of Photograpy David W. Hale
Music by Noah Defilippis
Cast: Christina Campanella, Don Wood & Angus Scrimm
2005/85 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD
In my recent review for THE LOCALS, I praised the film for introducing a plot twist which took the movie in an entirely new direction, making it much more than it appeared that it would be. I admire films which can lead the audience down one path, and then totally change things. The low-budget film THE OFF SEASON features one doozy of a plot twist as well, but instead of just changing the direction of the film, it transforms the movie into an entirely different story! This has the exact opposite effect of that in films like THE LOCALS. Instead of drawing the viewer further into the film, it throws them out and leaves them by the side of the road.
As THE OFF SEASON opens, we meet Kathryn (Christian Campenella) and Rick (Don Wood), a young couple from New York who have come to spend the winter in a small New England coastal community. Rick is a writer who plans to create a new play while the couple lives in a motel, enjoying the peace and quiet. After some initial problems, the pair eventually settle in, with Rick writing and Kathryn working at a local library. They have an eccentric neighbor named Ted (Angus Scrimm) and a freight train goes by at night, but otherwise things are OK.
But soon, Rick begins to act very odd. Instead of writing, he spends a lot of time at a local bar with an odd character named Phil (Larry Fessenden), who Rick claims is an actor with connections. When Rick does try to write, he hears odd voices over his headphones and can't concentrate. It soon becomes obvious that something sinister is happening in room 13 and that Rick and Kathryn won't be getting the quite trip that they'd hoped for.
About 30 minutes in to THE OFF SEASON, it suddenly dawned on me what this film is. It's a little tiny version of THE SHINING -- a couple goes to an isolated hotel so that the man can write. But here, everything is done on a much smaller scale than THE SHINING, as the couple is confined to one room of a budget motel, instead of having a sprawling resort at their disposal. There's nothing wrong with the fact that this film was inspired by THE SHINING, as there have hundreds of films which were reminiscent of others. No, the problem doesn't lie in the premise of THE OFF SEASON, it lies in the payoff.
Watching a film at home has many advantages over a theater, and one difference that I like is that I can watch the counter on the DVD player to gauge how far into a film I am, or more often, to see how much time is left. When the initial idea of THE OFF SEASON had been laid out, I was intrigued to see where it would take THE SHINING idea. But, after 45 minutes, the movie had become stagnant. Then, at the 50 minute mark, a shocking plot twist occurs which totally changing the plot of the film. After that, the movie flounders for a while and at the 1:08:00 point, a new plot emerges. An off-hand remark concerning the history which was given at the beginning of the movie suddenly becomes the focus of the film. This is incredibly jarring to the viewer, as major characters suddenly leave the film and new ones introduced with less than 10 minutes remaining in the movie. The DVD doesn't contain any extra features to explain this shift and it almost feels as if certain actors left the film and writer/director/producer/editor James Felix McKenney found that he had to change the film, or perhaps he had two scripts which he decided to meld. Either way, the jolting change in the film, saddled with a vague ending, really hurts THE OFF SEASON.
And that is truly a shame, for this small film does have some good things going for it. The DVD box claims that THE OFF SEASON is "A Ghost Story" and the few ghostly scenes included in the film are well done and some are quite creepy. McKenney chooses some very odd camera angles in the film which give it an interesting look. (To be fair, he also often lets the camera wander from side-to-side, as if it's unsure what it's supposed to be filming.) For a film of this nature, the cast is good. Sure, there are some awkward moments where the actors walk on each others lines or look like they're not sure where to stand, but at least the characters are believable. And it's always great to see Angus Scrimm at work. THE OFF SEASON has a lot of things going for it, but McKenney blows it by letting his story do a complete 180 and then drive off of a cliff.
THE OFF SEASON checks in to DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. As far as I can tell, THE OFF SEASON was shot on digital video. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The image does show some ghosting effects and rapid movement blurs in some scenes. The colors are good, but the image is flat at times. The framing appears to be accurate...perhaps too accurate given how the camera sways within the frame. A Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track can be found on the DVD. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound and subwoofer effects are quite good, adding a much-needed "oomph!" to the scary scenes.
The only extra on the DVD is a making-of featurette entitled "Closed for the Season: The Making of THE OFF SEASON". This 30-minute segment features a great deal of on-set video and behind-the-scenes footage, intercut with an interview with Angus Scrimm, where he shares his experiences on the film. The video contains some comments from cast & crew, but it never explores how or why the movie was made.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©