As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and the number of deaths rises, we’re quickly becoming numb to the tragedy. We have to remember that the people who’ve died are not just statistics. They were individuals with friends and families, with hopes and dreams. These are people who still had a life ahead of them only to have it ripped away by the virus.
Director Emily Shir Segal brings one story to light with her four minute short film I think it’s enough, isn’t it? She narrates the story of how her father came to die of COVID as we watch home videos of them from years past. The juxtaposition between images of happier days and the story of a sad and lonely end aptly demonstrates just how cruel this pandemic truly is.
I think it’s enough, isn’t it? screened as part of the virtual 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
“People are going to die anyways. Their stories don’t have to.”
If you could turn your grief into a horror film, what would it look like? A.T. White’s new film Starfish transforms the mourning process into a cosmic and post-apocalyptic drama that is as quiet and spare as it is fraught with tension and mystery.
After the sudden death of her best friend Grace (Christina Masterson), Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) travels back to her hometown for the funeral. The small town seems even smaller one day when Aubrey wakes up in Grace’s apartment to discover she’s the only one left. Extra-terrestrial creatures had invaded and killed everyone in town and possibly everyone else on earth. It isn’t until she comes face-to-face with one of the deadly creatures that she hears another human voice by way of a walkie talkie. Before Grace passed away, she uncovered a series of mysterious transmissions by which the creatures transported themselves to earth. Through a series of mixtapes she created a way to save Aubrey and save the world. The voices through the walkie talkie help Aubrey but eventually she must face the barren landscape and escape the creatures on her own.
Starfish was written, directed, edited, produced and composed by A.T. (Al) White. This film is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s more of a mood than it is a cohesive story. White plays with different mediums and one scene is even told through animation. We’re never quite sure if what we’re seeing is reality or Aubrey’s dissociation as a result of her grief. I love how the film plays with our perceptions, distorts the story and both confuses and intrigues us at every turn. One beautiful shot projects an imagined scene on the ceiling. Another scene takes Aubrey out of her reality and onto a movie set where she sees a version of herself talking to a director and surrounded by a film crew. Very meta. The time setting is left ambiguous but there are some clues in the technology used including an old TV set, the FM/AM radio that receives the mysterious transmissions, a rotary phone, cassette tapes, etc.
Overall the film is quite intimate. We never stray far from Aubrey as she guides us through her world. The star Virginia Gardner is up to the task and delivers a beautiful and haunting performance.
I interpreted the film as a metaphor for grief and mourning. When someone you love dies, it feels like they’ve abandoned you and you’re left to fend for yourself. I know I felt this way when my father passed. What they leave behind, in the case of Starfish it’s the mixtapes Grace leaves Aubrey, helps us get through the pain and the days to come. I could identify with the themes of loneliness and abandonment.
As someone who doesn’t watch horror, I found this one to be manageable. There was enough to frighten me but not too much to overwhelm. It’s a film both horror enthusiasts and avoiders can appreciate.
Starfish is available on digital VOD through iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, FandangoNow and other platforms in select territories. The film is dedicated to Sayako Grace Robinson who passed away in 2014 and all profits the director makes from the film are to be donated to cancer research.