I don’t know if Fandor is premiering “Jethica” (which won a top award at last year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival) on February 14 because of a reference to it in the film or if this is just serendipitous. But at one point Jessica’s stalker complains, “It’s fucking Valentine’s Day for you every day and you don’t even care!” Such petulant whining by the stalker makes up much of the creepy comic part of this ingenious but only mildly scary indie horror film.
“Jethica” is only 71 minutes long and the leisurely pacing of the first act suggests it could have even been shorter. After an opening scene of back seat sex, Elena (Callie Hernandez, seen recently in “Shotgun Wedding) tells her partner the story of how she killed someone. It’s unclear what the framing device adds to the story other than to suggest an unraveling of Elena’s life that began after the tale she tells.
While living in her dead grandmother’s trailer in remote New Mexico, Elena runs into a friend from high school, Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson), who says she has been traveling to avoid a stalker, Kevin (Will Madden), from when she lived in California. Elena lets Jessica stay with her but it is only short while before Kevin shows up again, circling the trailer, begging Jessica (the film’s title is a reference to Kevin’s mispronunciation of her name due to his slight lisp) to return his love. His torrent of self-pity and pathetic logic really brings home the horror victims of stalking must go through!
I can’t reveal any more about the story without spoiling a twist on ghost stories that, while being very original, also dispels much of the potential for fear in the movie. The writing (all improvised on set by the director and four of the actors) is very good, especially the long monologues by the stalker and while “Jethica” has few jump scares it is a very realistic depiction of the pain felt by both victims of stalking and the stalkers themselves. The cast are all very good, especially Will Madden’s Kevin, whose physical presence powerfully evokes the horrors of a hellish bout of insomnia and mental anguish.
Before feature films director Pete Ohs made music videos, including one (“Duplexes of the Dead”) for one of my favorite bands the Fiery Furnaces. He has a great visual sense and “Jethica” is a daring experiment in low-budget indie horror film that is well worth checking out as an early work of a director with great potential and a first rate cast.
Premieres February 14 on fandor.com. And don’t miss the Easter egg scene after the credits!