Directed by Pete Ohs.
Starring Callie Hernandez, Ashley Denise Robinson, Will Madden, Andy Faulkner, and Ross Yingst.
When Jessica’s stalker surprises her in New Mexico, she must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him for good.
Nothing is necessarily unorthodox about films having multiple screenwriters, but co-writer/director Pete Ohs’ Jethica has the rare distinction of coming from a script by what essentially amounts to the entire small ensemble. Given that Jethica juggles multiple perspectives and characters in its scant 70-minute running time (presumably, the actors wrote dialogue for themselves), some disjointed messiness in the execution is not surprising.
It’s also beneficial that the film is as short as it is because the filmmakers haven’t fully realized much beyond the groundwork of their metaphors with ghosts, which are admittedly clever and compelling, and provoke interesting dialogues about friendships and relationships.
Elena (Callie Hernandez) is introduced having some backseat car sex with an unseen man, following up the intercourse with a story about the time she lived alone in New Mexico, why she doesn’t live alone anymore (she’s reserved about letting him in her LA apartment, citing a roommate as the reason), and how she murdered someone. Naturally, the man is freaked out that he has just had sex with a killer but is willing to hear her out, hence a flashback to the bulk of the story. Callie Hernandez also deserves much credit for sucking viewers into her story across this extended take unbroken from her face.
While living alone in her grandmother’s remote home surrounding the New Mexico plains and roaming buffalo (the vast emptiness of the location makes for a quietly haunting setting even if horror is assuredly not on the minds of the filmmakers here, but more importantly an expensive one that ties into the themes of loneliness and connection), Elena comes across Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson), her Los Angeles-based friend from high school, at a gas station. There’s an intentionally awkward vibe between them as Jessica declines to hang out and catch up, swiftly changing her mind on the road and turning her car around.
Shortly thereafter, Jessica confesses that she has a stalker (one she sees a resemblance to whenever coming across an older, balding white male) whom she fled. It’s not long before this man, Kevin (Will Madden), shows up at the home, obsessively rambling and stuttering about unrequited love, coming across as entitled to a romantic relationship just because he claims to care about Jessica. It is toxic, unhealthy behavior accurately and sometimes pathetically amusing, as portrayed by Will Madden, but according to Jessica, he can’t be there.
Jessica then reveals that, since the police did nothing and the stalking only intensified, she murdered Kevin, subsequently opening up the trunk of her car to prove it. Elena rationalizes these events by explaining that her grandmother was into mysticism following her husband’s departure, transforming the land into one where ghosts can walk. As such, the Kevin walking around is actually a ghost, symbolizing stalkers as unreasonably possessed entities that won’t stop until they obtain what they want.
There’s also more to this, as Kevin eventually befriends another ghost to comedic effect, but one that also makes a decent point regarding how easier people can make things on themselves if they stop obsessing and find friendship in someone that does want to be around them.
Jethica remains engaging across its idiosyncratic tone (one that finally balances eeriness and dry, dark comedy) by taking these characters and their situation seriously. The dangers of stalking are never underplayed, and the performances ring true as honest. Again, the filmmakers never reach anything profound with the material, but that’s also why it’s only 70 minutes. It’s a bizarre treat that’s aware not to overstay its welcome.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com