With summer fast approaching, people will surely be looking for new movies to watch. If you’re looking for a horror film to scratch that itch, check out Starfish, from We Are Tessellate, which is directed by A.T. White. The film stars Virginia Gardner as Aubrey, Christina Masterson as Grace, Eric Beecroft as Edward, Natalie Mitchell as Alice, and Tanroh Ishida as Okami.
Starfish follows Aubrey as she finds herself trapped inside her recently deceased best friend’s apartment. A mysterious signal from an unknown dimension has brought upon the end of the world, leaving Aubrey as the seemingly lone survivor. The only clue she has that will help her figure out what happened is a single-cassette given to her by her best friend, Grace, that’s labeled as “This Mixtape Will Save The World”.
Aubrey must now solve the mystery that her Grace left behind while also dealing with her untimely death. She tries to find other cassette tapes that contain more clues about the mysterious signal. Unfortunately, her journey won’t be simple, as creatures that have taken over the world and loom in the shadows.
I wasn’t quite sure what to really expect from Starfish but the premise of the story immediately captured my attention. There’s something special about films and other works of art that deal with grief and how we as people get through it. The entirety of the film does an incredible job portraying how close both Aubrey and Grace were and the effect that Grace’s death had on our main character.
Right from the start of the film, Aubrey goes to Grace’s old apartment and reminisces about the memories they formed together. She’s so stricken with grief that she doesn’t know about what’s happening to the world around her. It speaks volumes to just what kind of effect the loss of someone can have on a person.
Beyond the grief, the designs for the monsters that Aubrey goes against are truly menacing. They alone add the elements of horror throughout the film. The creature design is a mixture of beings that could be found in one of H.P. Lovecraft’s tales and those that appear in a Hellboy story. The creatures never feel out of place within the story, which was definitely something I was worried about when they were introduced. They quickly became one of my favorite things about this film.
During one instance where Aubrey encounters the monsters, there’s a look of utter horror in her eyes as one of them pins her down to the ground. That shouldn’t be a surprise given that she’s dealing with monsters, but this situation is different. The monsters, much like a lot of the elements within the film, are meant to be taken as metaphorical figures.
These monsters are trying to prevent Aubrey from solving the mystery. Without going into specific spoilers, they are able to take a physical form that presents a much bigger threat which correlates with the theme of grief.
One aspect of any film that I can truly appreciate is how is uses music. Whether it has a soundtrack, a score, or just includes snippets of songs, they add so much more to any film. The uses of the string instruments during particular scenes add the creepy factor they need. It truly made my heart race fast as those scenes progressed. The film also used music through the different records that Aubrey played as she reminisced through her memories of Grace.
Until Starfish, I had only seen Gardner in the Halloween reboot that came out last year, although I know that she’s mostly known for her role on Hulu’s Marvel series Runaways. However, after her performance here, I can fully consider myself a fan. She not only does a phenomenal job with portraying grief, but she taps in to what made her relationship with Grace so special. Moments of regret, desire, a need for forgiveness, and confronting the problematic aspects of their relationship, Gardner was able to bring this friendship to life.
There’s a particular scene that made emphasized just how special the connection between Aubrey and Grace really was. Upon listening to the tape Grace left behind, Aubrey learns that Grace was looking into these strange phenomenons that would eventually cause the end of the world and aimed to solve them on her own once she got better. With Grace being dead, she wasn’t able to solve the mystery.
However, Aubrey just focuses on her friend being gone. The rest of the world doesn’t matter to her. It brings up the fact that there’s really no point in trying to figure out what these signals mean if the one person who matters to Aubrey the most is dead. She lets the grief take in, which inadvertently allows the horror elements of the story to be released as well.
Starfish has easily become one of my favorite films of the year. It perfectly blends a mixture of science fiction and horror while also finding ways to make the overall film unique. It reminded me of films like I Kill Giants, The Road, and even A Monster Calls and if you like those, you will certainly enjoy Starfish.
Starfish offers a new look at how humans deal with grief while also making its own mark within the horror genre. I will surely be checking out any future film projects that A.T. White develops. This is definitely one film that I absolutely recommend.
Starfish is out now on VoD.
Rating: 9/10 Mixtapes That Will Save the World