REVIEW

Jethica

(Pete Ohs, USA, 2022)

BY LAURA KERN | January 13, 2023
SHARE:

A stalker situation gone berserk; a cursed trailer home situated in the flat vastness of chilly, rural New Mexico; a provocative, post-coital admission of murder: Jethica would seem equipped for full-blooded horror if its wider ambitions weren’t so clearly apparent. The story’s overriding supernatural elements simmer with very human emotions. Loneliness above all enshrouds the film, defining its characters and the alienating existences we increasingly lead, while also highlighting the vital importance of friendship and the willingness to embrace the possibilities for forgiveness and regret.

When Elena and Jessica (Callie Hernandez and Ashley Denise Robinson), two old high-school friends weathering strangely related ordeals, run into each other at a gas station, Elena proposes they go back to her place for coffee. Both engaging, natural performers, Hernandez and Robinson are so well-matched that we could easily just watch the two of them catch up for the film’s 70 minutes, but it isn’t long before their reunion time is interrupted by the arrival of Kevin (Will Madden), the stalker responsible for Jessica’s sudden return to New Mexico. Kevin becomes a fixture outside the trailer that’s been passed down to Elena by her deceased mystic grandmother, constantly calling out for his beloved Jessica. But this time it happens that he’s no longer among the living… Director Pete Ohs offers up a sharp scenario that brings to mind Eric Red’s underseen 100 Feet (2008), in which a woman kills her abusive spouse, just to have his ghost come back to terrorize her while she’s under house arrest—resulting in a victim not only plagued by the traumatic memory of past mistreatment but literally haunted by a spirit still committed to its mortal’s destructive agenda. What does it really take for women to escape their abusers?

Even dead, Kevin never gives up—or shuts up, and his nonstop narcissistic babble makes him a total annoyance but also a gradual subject for pity. The psychological damage he has inflicted on Jessica isn’t taken lightly, but mental-health issues always add notes of gray to ostensibly black-and-white behavior. And while some viewers may experience flashes of guilt for laughing at someone afflicted with so many psychoses (and a slight lisp, as alluded to in the film’s title), the reality is that Kevin can be kind of hilarious. (The whole cast shines, but Madden is truly stellar here, and his character should be remembered in the cinematic-stalker hall of fame). His hyper-obsessive rationalizing already allowed him to believe he was the one suffering in life, and now he’s even able to spin being dead as a good thing, because that way he can be there for Jessica every second.

The final character in Ohs’s latest compact, micro-budget work—essentially a four-hander—is Benny (Andy Faulkner), Elena’s pale friend whom she regularly picks up on the side of the road. We don’t learn a whole lot about this zombie-like guy with empty, drugged-out stares, but the little we do get from their car chats speaks volumes about his own monumental loneliness. That the four actors are credited as screenwriters alongside Ohs (who himself takes on multiple roles, also serving as producer, cinematographer, and editor) indicates a closeness of collaboration, and likely some improvisation, which results in an intimate, unusually textured, satisfying film. Specific plot points are being skated around here as it’s best to be guided blindly through Jethica’s haunted—and haunting—terrain, while the two friends navigate the rules that apply for banishing a spirit. Part of the movie’s charm is its ability to make the familiar feel slightly off, even quietly eerie, which keeps the mood tense and the eyes affixed. 🩸

LAURA KERN

is a writer, editor, and horror programmer based in New York. She is the editor of Bloodvine and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

TWITTER: @killerkern

How to see Jethica

The film opens in select theaters on January 13, and will stream exclusively on Fandor beginning February 14 before moving over to Screambox.
RELATED CONTENT
    FRESH BLOOD
ARTICLE | ESSAY
The Harbinger, the latest of Andy Mitton’s exquisitely heady—and horrifying—otherworldly explorations, is the only quarantine film we need.

High-concept, no-frills horror is writer-director-editor-composer Andy Mitton’s modus operandi. While his four features (the first two co-directed with Jesse Holland) address vaster subjects...

BY LAURA KERN  |  December 5, 2022

REVIEW
(Eskil Vogt, Norway, 2021)

As The Innocents opens, a family of four are in the car headed to a new home. In the back seat sit two sisters: the lightly freckled Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), her intense stare much older than her 9 years, pinches her older, nonspeaking autistic sister, Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad).

BY LAURA KERN  |  May 13, 2022

REVIEW
(Mark Mylod, USA, 2022)

With his cold, enigmatic handsomeness and piercing blue eyes, Ralph Fiennes was meant for villainy. His magnetic portrayal of the execrable Nazi butcher Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List first lured American audiences in...

BY LAURA KERN  |  November 18, 2022

RECOMMENDED
    RAVENOUS
GUIDE | ORIGINS

Supernatural

(Victor Halperin, USA, 1933)

This pre-Code offering packs a lot of story into its typically brisk running time, with several plot threads weaving together a (not always successful) tapestry of spooky and criminal doings.

READ MORE >

BY  ANN OLSSON  |  Month 00, 2021

REVIEW

The Keep

(Michael Mann, USA, 1983)

In what could be the fastest-resulting rape revenge movie, a drunken lout brutally forces himself on Ida, the young woman who doesn't return his affections, during a party over Labor Day.

READ MORE >

BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021

REVIEW

We Need To Do Something

(Sean King O'Grady, USA, 2021)

Beast is a lot of movies in one package - fractured fairy tale, belated-coming-of-age story, psychological drama, regional horror film - but above all it's a calling card for its leading lady, Jessie Buckley.

READ MORE >

BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021