Anxiety. Depression. Pain. Guilt. Loss. Each of these words evokes a visceral weight when written onto a page or stated in a moment. Visual media has the ability to take these words and give them dimension. But the interesting irony is that the form these words take is dependent upon the perspective of the individual experiencing them. It is with this backdrop that the movie Starfish, created from the mind of A.T. White, inserts itself. It is a self described science fiction horror film that places itself at the crossroads of the death of a loved one and the literal end of the world, and along the way the audience consumes the emotions, doubts, and fears that transpire within the mind of a protagonist that is trying to piece together the mystery that connects her personal world and the larger literal catastrophe at hand.
Aubrey’s (Virginia Gradner) best friend Grace (Christina Masterson) has died. The funeral has ended and the ensuing grief causes Aubrey to break into Grace’s apartment to process this loss. Among the cluttered trip down memory lane via a host of items, pictures, and a pet turtle, Aubrey discovers a cassette tape titled “This Mixtape Will Save the World.” Aubrey soon awakes to the end of the world, as mysterious creatures begin to roam the land and hunt down humanity. With the weight of her personal grief, guilt over a lustful encounter from her past, and an overarching fear over the death of the world that Aubrey must set out to find the “Signal”, a vague idea hinted by her friend’s
Starfish is a beautiful movie. Aesthetically it is very pleasing to watch. The surreal nature of the movie flows well with the questionable lucidity of the protagonist. Lighting always is essential in a horror movie, and the playfulness of the director’s use of light and darkness always keeps the viewer’s mind active and intrigued. The creatures that are eventually shown are obviously computer generated, but they are rendered in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or half shown to cover for artistic mistakes. The creatures are fully shown at one point and are creatively rendered to evoke a clear discomfort in the viewer. The team that worked on these did an excellent job. Where the movie really shines in its choice of music. As one could imagine, any movie that features a mixtape is bound to have a musical angle, and here it really works with the plot of the story as Aubrey looks to find the elusive “Signal”.
I give this movie the utmost praise insofar as it delivers a beautiful visual and musical performance. However, the plot itself is where I struggled with this movie. The disjointed way that the plot proceeds feels somewhat symbolic of the way that we as individuals deal with grief. As Aubrey presses on further into her journey to find salvation for the world, she struggles to find it for herself and the movie conveys this by disassociative moments. These scenes are visually beautiful, but really cause the cohesiveness of the movie to suffer.
Starfish is a difficult movie to follow. It is a movie that was created to keep the viewer engaged and inquisitive on everything that is occurring. This movie has all the pieces to be great, but it just feels like Starfish is working too hard to bring home a point to its narrative instead of smoothly adding that puzzle piece into its story. I must admit that I have been thinking and talking about it since my initial viewing, but that didn’t necessarily mean that it was a great movie. Internal philosophical debates aside, if you are looking for an interesting horror movie with a sci-fi, psychological twist, you should be on the lookout for this one as it will have an initial debut in New York this March, with a limited theatrical release in major cities soon after.
Ryan Files is an avid comic book and video game consumer, reviewer, and critic hailing from the boondocks of Illinois. He has taken his ethnographic cultural studies background and applied it to his love of geekdom. He is a huge Star Wars nerd, Castlevania fanatic, and his power level is definitely over 9000. When he isn’t online writing about how he misses old school beat em’ ups like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, or TMNT IV Turtles in Time, he raises his 3 Dora Milaje warrior girls with the most awesome wife a