Jethica is a haunting, darkly comedic take on surviving a stalker

Jethica is a haunting, darkly comedic take on surviving a stalker

There’s something uniquely terrifying about a stalker. Having a person in your life who feels owed your presence, your time, and even your affection, despite not having earned any of it (if it were even on offer in the first place) would leave even the toughest person feeling exposed. A stalker illogically fixates on their target, often doing mental gymnastics as to how they’re the hero in the situation, and conversely, how their target is being unfair by withholding reciprocal emotions. It’s this inherent lack of logic and sense that robs a stalking victim of agency: short of extreme and often aggressive measures, there’s nothing which can be done to dissuade a stalker from their chosen course.

In a lot of ways, it’s like a haunting. In the realm of the paranormal, once cannot just ask a malevolent spirit to leave (except in those silly cinematic instances when one repeatedly yells “I don’t believe in you, I’m not afraid anymore” to a ghost and then the ghost fades away while yelling “noooo” in an eerie decrescendo). Instead, the victim of a haunting has to get on the same level as their intruder, invoking spells, incantations, proton packs, and what have you to get the job done.

Jethica is a paranormal dark comedy that uses these similarities to tell the story of two childhood friends, and the paranormal means by which they attempt to get rid of a particularly tenacious stalker.

Elena (Callie Hernandez, who co-wrote) runs into her old friend Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson, who co-wrote) while running errands one day, and after an awkward conversation, the two meet up at Elena’s home to catch up over a cup of coffee. Long story short, Jessica is currently hiding from Kevin (Will Madden, who co-wrote), a stalker who has followed her a great distance, despite many very clear denials. Elena invites Jessica to lie low at her place indefinitely, but when Kevin shows up at the door, the duo decide to employ extraordinary means to get rid of him once and for all. It’s a film that deserves to go unspoiled, so all you get to know is that Elena’s family has a history of dabbling in the supernatural.

Tonally, Jethica finds plenty of variety within the confines of a mostly single-location tale (one gets the sense this was a quarantine project). The film begins as a lightly spooky mystery with a bleak, although outwardly sunny, feel to it. Stark widescreen photography captures the sandy desert vistas of Elena’s rather large property (upon which she has parked a tiny trailer). It is simultaneously expansive and claustrophobic. It’s a prison with no walls, meant to trigger the feeling of being stalked. Soon, as the ambiguities of the situation begin to clarify, the bleak tone is maintained, but the spookiness gives way to dark comedy.

It’s a smooth transition of tone, but there is nonetheless a bifurcation between the two modes that needn’t exist. If the back half held onto the spooky energy of the first act as it drifted toward comedy, it would lend itself to a more fulsome experience on the whole. Another odd choice is made in form of a framing device, in which the entirety of the plot is being relayed to a faceless suitor by Elena, just after a sexual encounter in the back of a car. A second viewing could potentially open up a thematic reason for this added layer, but upon first watch it feels like material for material’s sake. Even so, at just 72 minutes, none of the excess is unwelcome. Each moment works, even if just in the moment, and the overall strength of theme, performance, and craft pave over this minor constructional bugaboo.

It’s a marvel to see how much paranormal mythology the script is able to convey in such a short time. The “rules” of the supernatural occurrences are frankly spoken. There’s no extraneous dialogue that tries to “sneak” exposition into things. Hernandez delivers this plainly expositive material brilliantly. Her matter of fact nature gives it all an immediate lived-in feel. This straightforward nature of the dialogue is also what fuels the comedy. Benny the hitchhiker (Andy Faulkner, who co-wrote) barely says a word, but delivers plenty of laughs through cadence alone. The cast shares a strong command of rhythm in this way — each scene could be a vignette in and of itself.

With Jethica, director Pete Ohs (who also co-wrote) and this tight team of creators have built a thoughtful, effective film that should appeal to multiple crowds. Horror elements are mixed with deadpan humor and a feminist flair, all displayed in a crisply shot, entertaining indie package.

It’s also definitely makes the top ten list of fantastic titles. It’s just so much fun to say out loud.



Directed by Pete Ohs

Written by Pete Ohs, Andy Faulkner, Callie Hernandez, Will Madden, Ashley Denise Robinson

Starring all of the above, minus Pete.

Not rated, 72 minutes

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