Brooklyn Horror Film Festival Review: STARFISH (2018)

Being this year’s centerpiece for the 2018 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, A.T. White’s STARFISH is not only visually mesmerizing but tackles heavy and beautiful subject matters through the guise of apocalyptic science fiction.

After breaking into her deceased friend Grace’s (Christina Masterson) apartment to mourn the recent loss and take care of her abandoned pets, Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) awakes the next morning to a desolate, frozen apocalypse. With no human life in site (aside from an anonymous voice through a two-way radio), Aubrey must find various mix tapes that Grace has left for her in order to save the world, while avoiding the lurking mysterious creatures that dwell outside. This adventure soon becomes deeper than what it appears, leaving Aubrey with a much greater journey at hand.

Containing multiple genres which bounce between science fiction, drama, and even housing a beautifully animated sequence, director A.T. White offers up a visually impressive film with a creatively complex sense of purpose. Within STARFISH, White gives us a story cloaked beneath endless layers, showing us the intricacies of life events and how they impact the human experience. It goes much deeper than grief, showcasing the self doubts and sense of worthlessness one can feel from mistakes made, and paths chosen. Though part of the narrative, this is not a film about monsters, or the end of the world, but rather the journey of knowledge through the act of ultimate self acceptance.

Dripping with metaphorical characteristics, almost every detail within this film feels perfectly placed, and can be analyzed with symbolic undertones, with the two biggest being the jellyfish and starfish. While in Grace’s apartment, Aubrey attempts to feed her pet jellyfish by dropping starfish into their bowl. These two creatures not only share some common aspects, but also have spiritualistic origins, which could serve purpose to the film as a whole.

I’m not actually certain that jellyfish eat starfish, but both animals rely heavily on sensory to function, allowing them to experience and live through touch and physicality. The totems of these two creatures each represent something different, with the starfish showcasing the powers of regeneration, as they can grow new pieces of themselves if need be, while the jellyfish (in spiritualism) caters to the sense of flowing with the universe, and allows one to look within themselves, and their self-esteem. The addition of these elements, to me, feels like the relationship between Aubrey and Grace, with Grace providing the guiding light to Aubrey’s revival. Whether this analysis holds true, director White definitely intended something important through these two creatures, which demonstrates the craft of masterful, in-depth storytelling.

Not only housing a buffet of sought after metaphors, STARFISH also has a unique aesthetic with a highly distinctive quality. We become enveloped inside of a world surrounded by specific color palettes and vintage technologies. This small town that seems to be lost in time sets the tone for the film’s duration; Aubrey feels the cold touch of complete and utter isolation, with only the recorded voice of her dead friend to give ambiguous guidance. Through these elements, White creates a nostalgic, yet contemporary place that provides the audience with a sense of atmospheric scarcity that is actually abundant with color and life.

Through bold filmmaking techniques and direction, along with creative storytelling matched with a flawless but sparse cast of actors, STARFISH is film that needs to be seen. It definitely reigns to be a creative masterpiece, and one that will be looked back upon as one of the great films within the last decade. This visceral experience will leave you feeling transcendent, emotional, and artistically fulfilled. Be sure to catch Starfish in upcoming festivals such as Morbido and Ithaca, and check for upcoming information on distribution.

Abigail Braman
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