Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) is a young woman in the throes of grief following the devastating death of her best friend. All of a sudden, life is no longer as she knows it as she comes to terms with her loss. Starfish (2018) is set against an apocalyptic backdrop exploring the notion of grief and the confusing emotions that walk hand in had with it as the world itself comes to a mysterious and destructive end.
On paper, Starfish lays out an intriguing concept that has the potential to be a wonderfully compelling film. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. First and foremost, on a technical level the film is extremely competent, featuring breathtakingly beautiful cinematography and polished framed compositions.
It’s an experimental piece with a somewhat music video feel to it, notably the dreamlike, animated sequence around the half way point. It’s evident that the filmmaker has a creative visual flair and utilizes this with maximum effort. Sadly, the striking imagery alone does not carry the monotonous plot or the fact that the film unfolds at a tediously slow pace, making Starfish an absolute chore to sit through.
Starfish is a case of style over substance, arthouse filmmaking and comes across as very indulgent. There’s the impression that director/writer Al White is conveying a character-driven experience of what it’s like to go through losing a loved one with a genre twist but with the main character’s lack of emotion, the material proves difficult to connect with. The film goes through the motions and offers up very little apart from some striking visual set pieces.
There’s almost a cynical tone to it by taking a very raw subject matter and pinning it against the existential crisis of the world coming to an end in an arthouse fashion. It is un-relatable and an alienating viewing experience for those outside the niche audience it’s catering for.
Ultimately, Starfish is well made from a technical standpoint with sharp editing, superbly crafted special effects on a low budget and features a masterful and powerful score that creates a sense of ambience. However, as a storytelling piece it is unenthralling.
For fans of indie/arthouse cinema this will certainly hold an appeal but perhaps not for a general, mainstream horror-going audience who like myself, may struggle with it.
Starfish will be available via VOD/Digital Download from Tuesday the 28th of May 2019 in the US, UK, AUS, NZ and Canada.