MAY 8, 2008
Despite living in Los Angeles, it’s very rare I see LA set movies that I can definitely pinpoint their exact shooting location. Most LA movies are set in the downtown/south LA area, and I live north, in the loathed and lovable Valley. The only movie I can recall being shot ‘in my neighborhood’ was the utterly loathsome piece of shit Crash (the scene where they ‘hijack’ Terrence Howard – he drives right by my street), and that was actually a year before I moved here. The town I grew up in, to the best of my knowledge, has never had a single film shot there (School Ties was shot 2 towns over, that’s about as close as we got). But I do have a sort of third home – Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where I went every summer of my life until I was like 18 and didn’t ‘have to’ go anymore with the rest of my family. So at last weekend’s Fangoria convention, when Angus Scrimm mentioned that he had shot a film called The Off Season there, I immediately top of the queued it.
The opening credits were a particular highlight, as Rick and Kathryn (our main characters) drove down the main “downtown” street (where all the rides and amusements are); a street I have walked up and down probably a thousand times. Of course, the title signifies when the film was shot, so it was a bit odd to see everything closed down and empty – even when it rains in the summer, the street is always mobbed with cars and pedestrians. Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of the visual joy, as the characters soon check into a motel and we barely see anything outside their room for the rest of the film.
It’s also not a very good movie, either. It starts off great, a sort of low-budget spin on The Shining (hey, it’s Maine, might as well mine King material while you’re at it). We get the writer, the oddball supporting cast, almost subliminally creepy sightings, etc. And there’s even a few chilling-ish moments. My favorite part of the film was when we see Rick in the foreground and Kathryn in the background. As she strips off her pants and wipes her brow from sweat, he shivers and wraps a blanket around himself. Sadly, this nice little subtle moment is ruined when they actually call attention to it.
But after a half hour or so, it’s clear that the film isn’t really going anywhere. Nothing we see is ever explained, other than (sort of) a bloodstain on a mattress that comes and goes throughout the film. The Jason Sudeikis-y Rick eventually becomes a drunk who doesn’t write, but this is never really explained, nor is his sudden departure from the film (he claims to go off to LA, but then we see him in New York at the end?). Kathryn suddenly becomes the main character, and all of a sudden we are introduced to the history and career of ANOTHER writer who once lived at the motel. The last 15 minutes of the movie almost seem like the first few scenes from another film, though one that is equally as plodding.
Just some of the questions that are never answered: Why is the bathroom covered in poop? Why does Kathryn’s dead mother keep calling? How did a ghost give her a black eye? Why don’t we ever actually SEE Rick go off to drink with his buddy (as this is an independent horror film, naturally his buddy is played by Larry Fessenden, who delivers cinema’s longest middle finger giving scene)? Why do they keep alluding to making dinner when the motel room clearly does not have a kitchen? Why do all of the horror elements suddenly disappear so we can hear about some author’s books that spill dirt on prestigious Maine residents? Why is poor Angus Scrimm rambling about plants for 90% of his (4 minutes’) screen time? I’m all for a few unanswered questions, but only when the film itself is entertaining and the basic story is resolved, neither of which apply here.
It’s almost difficult to review the film, because I feel I only watched a few deleted scenes from it. Seeking answers, I went into the special features menu, only to discover that “Version of the film that is worth a damn” was not among them. The only actual extra is a making of that has more Scrimm footage than is in the film itself, which really depressed me. Here’s Angus talking about all the preparation he did for his 5 minute role, more effort than anyone else (cast or crew) clearly put into it. There’s also a shot of director James McKenney en route to a casting session, driving down a street in Burbank right near my work (he’s following me, Denzel Washington in Déjà vu style!). There are also Spanish subtitles, so Spanish speaking folks can be just as bored and baffled as I was.
Whatever, movie. Way to make Old Orchard boring.
What say you?