The early 2000’s brought on a new subgenre to the indie movie scene referred to as “mumblecore”. These films are often characterized as low-budget, independent films that place a focus on dialogue between young adults rather than plot. When horror films began utilizing these themes, the term “mumblegore” was thrown around. While most films that fall under this umbrella came out in the early 2000’s, Jethica is a new horror film that firmly places itself in the mumblegore subgenre.
Director Pete Ohs (Youngstown) brought Jethica to life in a unique way. Instead of having a set script, the actors collaborated with Ohs to create the film as they went along. The resulting film tells the story of two young women, Elena (Callie Hernandez) and Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson). Old school friends, the two randomly run into each other at a remote gas station in New Mexico. Elena invites Jessica to come over for coffee to catch up and, though reluctant at first, Jessica agrees. Jessica eventually reveals she was back in the area because she’s on the run from a stalker. When her stalker mysteriously shows up outside Elena’s trailer, Elena uses supernatural means to get help from beyond the grave to rid Jessica of the relentless creep.
The general concept of Jethica is gripping. Stalkers are scary enough on their own, but the thought of one so relentless that it takes help from beyond the grave to be free of them is absolutely horrifying. Unfortunately, this film fails to live up to that potential. In true mumblegore fashion, there is an obvious focus on conversations between the various characters throughout the film. While the film is advertised as a dramatic thriller/horror film with comedic elements, the comedy is so dry that it ends up losing any humor. Everything from the plot to the dialogue to the performances has a very monotone style, so there isn’t anything exciting to really grab the audience’s attention.
This monotone style carries over to the performances as well. Both Hernandez and Robinson do perfectly fine jobs as Elena and Jessica, respectively, and they genuinely feel like a pair of old friends. Yet it’s hard to feel endeared to either character, or feel that they are ever truly in danger. This mostly stems from both performances being rather one-note, never conveying to the audience emotional depth or turmoil. The one performance that does show more of a range of emotion is Will Madden (The Wolf of Snow Hollow) as the stalker, Kevin. It makes his character stand out, and every once in a while elicits a chuckle from viewers, but overall the performance stays close to the tone of the rest of the film.
When it comes to the visuals there are some elements that are well-done, while others are indicative of the small budget. Jethica was filmed in a remote part of New Mexico. The monochromatic, desolate landscape makes for a great backdrop for a film that focuses on themes of isolation and loneliness. When it comes to the makeup effects for the undead characters, the look is very simplistic. Lots of white makeup on the face and dark circles around the eyes make the undead easily identifiable, but it also lacks any real visual interest. This decision was likely equal parts budgetary and aesthetics, resulting in a few visually lackluster spirits.
Jethica is a mumblegore film that meanders through a rather uneventful plot. While there are sure to be some viewers who enjoy the film, it just doesn’t work for me. There isn’t enough character development or true plot to grab hold of the audience and keep their attention to the bittersweet end. If anything, the most compelling aspect of Jethica is the collaborative process in which it was made. The film isn’t bad by any means, but it does come across as quite unmemorable, which might be worse.
OVERALL RATING: 4/10