Vague Visages’ Jethica review contains minor spoilers. Pete Ohs’ 2022 movie stars Callie Hernandez, Ashley Denise Robinson and Andy Faulkner. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
Pete Ohs’ Jethica expands the possibilities of cinema. More of an innovative genre mashup than a traditional slow burn thriller, the 72-minute flick comedically addresses a serious topic — stalking — while exploring the emotional lives of ghosts. Ohs works with little in Jethica and yet achieves something grandiose.
Jethica stars the wonderful Callie Hernandez as Elena, a mysterious woman who lives outside Santa Fe. She randomly reunites with a high school friend and discovers that Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson) has been trying to avoid a stalker (Will Madden as Kevin). Meanwhile, a nomad named Benny (Andy Faulkner) roams about on the side of a highway. When Kevin shows up outside Elena’s home, ranting and raving, Jessica makes a startling confession: she killed her stalker back in California. Elena explains that the new Kevin must be a ghost who was summoned by an existing spell made by her late grandmother — a mystic. And so the women strategize against the rambling perv ghost, who doesn’t fully understand his existence but knows that he wants to see Jessica’s “calves, legs and thighs.”
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Ohs creates suspense in Jethica by hammering away at the fundamentals: strong character close-ups, poetic landscape shots, slow pans and natural sound design. Martin Scorsese would be proud. Given that Jethica immediately looks and feels like a pro production, Ohs can essentially protect his hand by speaking through mise-en-scène and surreal character moments. For example, Kevin’s maniacal rambling is at once disturbing and comedic as the audience learns about his, um, condition. And Ohs’ handling of the stalker situation calls to mind filmmakers like the Coen Brothers and the Daniels; directors who poke and prod the audience with dark humor and off-kilter characters.
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Jethica’s Elena is a fascinating character creation. Ohs reveals little about her motivations but ensures that she’s a somewhat reliable narrator, evidenced by her interactions with male ghosts. Is Elena actually an Anton Chigurh-like killer or perhaps a mystic who secretly summoned her friend to the desert? Ohs and his four co-screenwriters (!) might frustrate some viewers with their stripped-down narrative approach (trust Elena’s ghost information or don’t); however, the surrealistic minimalism benefits the modest character development. Meaning, Elena — as a character, as a woman — could be interpreted a variety of ways. The possibilities are endless, due to the constant narrative shift between real-world character problems and supernatural existentialism. Hernandez, with her sweet voice and commanding eyes, implies that Elena possesses information, beyond all the ghost stuff, that Jessica couldn’t possibly understand. In that sense, there’s an argument to be made that Jethica takes place in a parallel universe. Yes, it’s that weird (which is a good thing).
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Imagine if Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 classic City Lights ended with the Blind Girl (Virginia Cherrill) saying, “I can I see now… also, I am dead.” That would raise a few questions about everything that came before. To be clear, Jethica doesn’t conclude with a big character reveal — though a credits scene raises even more questions — but I can’t quite figure out what happens next. And that’s fine. Keep me thinking about all the possibilities. Keep me lost in the supermarket.
Jethica released exclusively at Fandor in February 2023.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.
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