Set during the winter in Old Orchard Beach, Maine (and filmed there as well), “The Off Season”, from Larry Fessenden’s Scare Flix division of GlassEyePix, is an eerie ghost story about loneliness and abandonment. A young couple from New York, Kathryn Bennett (Christina Campenella) and Rick Holland (Don Wood), “get away from it all” at an old residential motel, The Viking, at the summertime resort in order for Rick to work on a play. You know things aren’t going to go well when their next door neighbor is played by Angus Scrimm (“Phantasm”) and as they are moving in, the first room they are given has a bathroom covered in feces. Then, they are moved to Room 13 (another bad sign) where Kathryn hears a spectral voice calling her and later finds what appears to be a large bloodstain on the sheets of their bed.
Things quickly degenerate as Rick complains of always being cold while just a few feet away, Kathryn is wearing only her underwear due to the heat she is feeling. And Kathryn’s job at the local library, which is all the income the two have to survive on, is put in jeopardy when she becomes mysteriously ill. Then Rick takes to staying out all hours at a local bar, hanging with the local lout Phil (Larry Fessenden) who beats his girlfriend, the motel’s cleaning girl, Paullette (Francine Pado). Eventually, Kathryn and Rick’s relationship just falls apart and Rick leaves. Rather abruptly. At this point, and we’re nearly through the film now, the focus shifts to the eerie ghosts which haunt Room 13 at the Viking Motel. Kathryn does some sleuthing with the help of some books given to her by the landlady, Mrs. Farthing (Ruth Kulerman), which were written by Room 13’s previous tenant and it is in these books that Kathryn discovers who the creepy visions she has been seeing belong to. And once again, viewers are treated to one more reason to NEVER take a shower in an old motel!
I loved the atmosphere of “The Off Season” as it was filmed in the autumn and early winter and was very gloomy- just perfect weather for a ghost story. And while you would expect Angus Scrimm to be playing another “Tall Man”-type character, he actually is quite delightful playing a retired rodeo cowboy who is lonely and loves to talk the ear off of anyone who he can “catch”. And it’s always fun to see Larry Fessenden lurking along the fringes of many of his own movies as either a lout or some sort of handyman (as he was in “The Roost” and Brad Anderson’s “Session 9”). The outstanding performance, however, is Christina Campenella as Kathryn. She carries the entire last half of the film and you can feel her loneliness and confusion over Rick’s sudden departure as well as her feeling that all is not right with Room 13 (and boy, is she ever right!). But at the same time, Rick’s sudden departure does make one wonder “What was the point of the first half of the movie?”
There are a few scares but it’s more the foreboding sense of menace and “not right-ness” that really makes this movie work for me. Sure, the script could have been tighter and the story of what is haunting Room 13 could have been brought out much earlier, perhaps eliciting even more scares, but if you want to enjoy a low-budget, indie GHOST story (not too many of those these days), shot in a creepy little resort town on the Maine coast, then “The Off Season” may just be for you.