Every person on the planet carries problems and self-doubt. Sometimes, we manifest these internal struggles through outside ideas and put up walls to prevent ourselves from becoming vulnerable. One of the great aspects of horror and supernatural films is the ability to manifest this unsaid baggage through literal concepts. The genre allows filmmakers to conceptualize those fears and seek closure for traumatic events in our past. The upcoming feature Jethica focuses on our inability to cope, both internally and outwardly. As the characters attempt to rationalize their actions and choices, director Pete Ohs reminds us of the difficulty of moving forward.
A young woman named Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson) seems unsure while traveling on the road. At a gas station, she runs into a former friend Elena (Callie Hernandez), who invites her to stay with her. Jessica seems tense and reveals to Elena that she’s being stalked. When Kevin (Will Madden), her stalker, finds Jessica, secrets begin to unravel from all three.
Jethica does a great job blending the thriller and comedy elements early in its construction. Ohs provides frames early sequences of the film with homage and unique style. The camera literally takes on the POV of unseen characters, calling back to Evil Dead as an inspiration. Yet as the story evolves, the seemingly blatant horror elements take a step back for a far less aggressive tone. Instead, the dialogues between the characters become our primary source of tension and surprise. Meanwhile, the camera takes on the role of spectator, using its voyeuristic lens to allow us insight into the interpersonal struggles between characters.
The screenplay allows the concepts to percolate as the themes evolve. The audience is forced to reevaluate what we’ve seen as new information is filtered into the story until its closing minutes. What may feel like a simple idea becomes infinitely more complex with newly unveiled layers and context. This is a truly collective film, as Jethica‘s four leading performers get screenwriting credits. While the framing device does not work, the intricacies of the story keep us hooked.
While Jethica mostly succeeds, it does suffer from odd pacing. This causes us to spend a little too long in some scenes, which Ohs could have parsed down. We revisit characters, specifically Kevin, repeating the same idea repeatedly. While this touches on a theme of the story, it’s not the most entertaining process to observe. Jethica already explores the concept thoroughly, making the repetition feel like filler rather than genuine exploration.
While slightly inconsistent, Jethica proves enough ideas to keep an eye on its talent. Ghost stories are challenging to pull off, let alone those that infuse other genres. With exciting and nuanced performances from Robinson and Hernandez, as well as slick direction from Ohs, the lo-fi film has a chance to grab a cult fandom.