Jethica opens with Elena (Callie Hernandez) and her one-night stand having a conversation. She’s not interested in forming a connection with him, but he wants to get to know her. After convincing her to talk about her past, she explains that she ran away to New Mexico to hide because she killed someone while texting and driving. This is how Pete Ohs’ new film Jethica gets moving—by dropping viewers right in the middle of the drama. With its world premiere at SXSW, this supernatural dark comedy offers a refreshing take on the concept of ‘ghosting’—literally and spiritually.
Elena and Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson) run into one another at a New Mexico gas station. The two haven’t seen one another in some time. Elena invites Jessica to her home for coffee, and at first, she declines but changes her mind and decides to take her up on the offer. Jessica explains she moved back to New Mexico from California because her stalker, Kevin (Will Madden), and his behavior got out of control. She thought by being back home she would be free of him but, NOPE!
As the duo visits some local ruins, they see a random man stumbles about like a zombie. Anxious by his presence, the girls leave quickly. A few hours later, that same man is outside Elena’s property shouting Jessica’s name. The two bicker back and forth on whether or not it’s a stranger or Kevin. When they finally discover who it is, things get supernaturally weird. Instead of acting as damsels and living in fear, the two women are annoyed that these supernatural entities are taking up space in their lives.
The film is full of quirky, dead-panned humor, with biting sarcasm that’s utilized in a way rarely seen in the genre. They confront the threat (if you want to call it that) head-on and win reasonably quickly by using their resources to get rid of the ghostly nuances. The solution to the haunting issue is an innovative choice by Ohs. These elements put the concept of supernatural haunting in a three-dimensional space where one must physically face what haunts them. I want to spoil the surprise, but giving away details on the world created by the writers of Jethica and by Ohs will ruin the experience.
In the story, the male characters are equally important as the women, but too much time is focused on Kevin and his toxic entitlement. The women spend a lot of time observing while the men talk non-stop about what they deserve, what they aren’t getting, and why. That isn’t as compelling as the story thinks it is. Despite the character hiccups, the director (and the actors, who have writing credits on Jethica) sync creatively to come up with such a solid story that is delightful to watch.
Ohs’ minimalist approach adds to the does so much with a little bit of makeup, minor special effects, and a singular setting. The wide-open space of New Mexico invokes a sense of isolation and loneliness that serves the narrative to great effect. At 70 minutes in length, it’s a great example that not everything has to be two hours long to tell a solid, engaging story.
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