SXSW Film Festival Visions Section
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Pete Ohs
Writer: Ashley Denise Robinson, Callie Hernandez, Andy Faulkner, Will Madden, Pete Ohs
Cast: Callie Hernandez, Will Madden, Ashley Denise Robinson, Andy Faulkner
Screened at: SXSW Film Festival Online, LA, 3/13/22
Opens: March 12th, 2022
Some people just can’t take no for an answer. In an age where the notion of consent is being increasingly stressed, there remain those who believe they can take whatever they want, regardless of what others think. Whether the motivation for that aggression stems from pure unchecked arrogance or mental health issues, there are people put in serious danger by the inability of others to respect their boundaries. Jethica puts a clever supernatural spin on the idea of fighting back against unwanted advances.
Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson) has been dealing with a relentless stalker, Kevin (Will Madden), who has been following her from place to place. Finally believing herself to be free of him, Jessica runs into her old classmate Elena (Callie Hernandez), who invites her back to her late grandmother’s ranch. When Kevin shows up outside calling out for Jessica, she learns that the property has an ability to bring people back from the dead, forcing Elena to get creative to solve Jessica’s problem once and for all.
Jethica runs just seventy minutes but manages to tell its story with time to spare. That’s not to suggest that it doesn’t fill that runtime, but rather that it’s not padded with unnecessary exposition, yet it still manages to feature a good deal of intrigue as Jessica is concerned by the fact that a man lingering near them resembles the man she has been trying to avoid who couldn’t possibly be there. It also opens with Elena recounting that she has killed a man to someone else, and the specifics of her action don’t become fully clear until the end of the film.
Though this film might be classified by some as horror, it’s much more of a very dark comedy. Kevin’s reaction to learning that he is dead starts with confusion but quickly turns to upbeat acceptance, since he realizes he doesn’t need to eat or work, and he can spend all of his time in service of his love Jessica. The notion that someone would be so singularly focused on serving his own aims that he wouldn’t even notice that he is no longer alive is a biting critique of the pervasive selfishness of chauvinism.
While there is a good deal to unpack with this film and it has a worthwhile perspective, it is worth noting that it may not be the right screening choice for those who have experienced this type of behavior. While Jessica has obviously endured something difficult and traumatic, what is presented during the length of this film is not nearly as harrowing and might feel reductive to anyone who has actually been through it. Conversely, it is in no way a violent revenge thriller and carries a far deeper and more resonant message about truly listening to people and acting in acknowledgment of their wishes.
Jethica comes from director Pete Ohs, his second film after working as an editor on projects like Beast Beast and Olympic Dreams. Along with Ohs, cast members Hernandez, Robinson, Madden, and Andy Faulkner, who plays a mystery man named Benny, penned the script, one that includes sparse dialogue and a good deal of subtle and effective humor. Hernandez and Robinson deliver strong lead performances that are defined by strength and resolve, while Madden and Faulkner are more simplistic and narrow-minded. This film makes great use of its concept and a minimalistic approach, engaging with ideas in a way that doesn’t require extensive sets or effects. Its brief runtime is the best sign that this is among the most direct and effective ways of telling a story, one that remains memorable for much longer than just seventy minutes.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+