Mickey Keating is one of the most interesting and versatile indie filmmakers working in horror today. In the same way that Edgar Wright jumps from genre to genre between projects, Keating too moves from one vibe to the next depending on what his story calls for. His most recent film Offseason celebrated its World Premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, unveiling to the world at large his Lovecraftian, Fulci-esque drive-in-worthy weirdness.
Offseason stars Jocelin Donahue, who horror fans will no doubt recognize from House of The Devil and Joe Swanberg (actor and director, respectively, of two separate segments in the found footage classic V/H/S) as partners Marie & George, with surprise appearances from Melora Walters (The Butterfly Effect), Richard Brake (31), and fellow filmmaker Jeremy Gardner (After Midnight).
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Keating ahead of the world premiere to discuss his Southern Gothic influences, the trouble with shooting at historic oceanside locations, and how he worked to create the ethereal nightmare logic of Offseason.
“I wanted to make something that was a little more dreamy [with] nightmare logic and that was really the challenge.“
Jonathan Dehaan for Nightmare on Film Street: I’ve always looked at your movies like your jumping from one genre space to another, project to project. Is that generally your approach?
Mickey Keating: I guess there’s always an effort to try not to repeat myself and take what I’ve learned from the previous film but I feel like repetition is the death of creativity and so I always try to make something that is far different and as much of a challenge with each project. It’s not a conscious decision like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make my “this” movie next,’ but there’s always something that I’m interested in doing.
NOFS: Would it be wrong to say that Offseason is like your “Fulci” movie? I got strong The Beyond vibes from this one.
MK: Oh, that’s so funny. I mean, I love Fulci, of course, and I definitely have European influences, for sure, and Italian cinema, absolutely, but I definitely feel like looking at this movie was kind of the effort to do something a little more literary like some Southern Gothic, old Faulkner story. But if people see Fulci, I love Fulci, so I’ll take it.
NOFS: I mean, that’s probably just me going “Fog, long highways, weird eyeballs- this has got to be a Fulci homage”.
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MK: Even in their outfits, yeah, they definitely are in that throwback look so if that’s the takeaway, great. […] A masterclass filmmaker? I’ll take it [laughs].
NOFS: Just talking inspiration, where did the original idea for Offseason come from and what kind of movies were you referencing in development?
MK: I definitely wanted to make something that was- you know, I think my previous movies are kind of anchored in the familiarity and love letters whether it’s De Palma or, obviously, something like Repulsion– and this movie I wanted to make something that was a little more dreamy [with] nightmare logic and that was really the challenge. My inspirations really pulled from, first and foremost, the idea of going into an antique book shop and you get some old, beaten-up book that has Southern Gothic literature in it and the feeling that evokes. That was what I was trying to center on the most but really this was also a movie that we shot in Florida so I wanted it to have really striking, epic, anamorphic shots of the landscape and everything. So, yeah, I feel like this movie was the effort to be like- you can’t necessarily point and be like “Oh, it’s a love letter to this” or something else. I wanted it to be its own ethereal nightmare in a way
NOFS: Pulling off that nightmare logic has to be a pain in the ass, I assume, because [the moment] has to be familiar but also feel unreal.
MK: Absolutely- I mean, look at something like Mulholland Drive with the woman behind the dumpster. It’s grounded in some sense of reality but it also feels so nightmarish and I feel like those surreal emotions are something I felt would be something really interesting to try and bring into a horror movie. Obviously, there’s a whole lot of the idea that life’s a dream- these motives exist throughout the movie- just for that point. The scariest experiences I have are nightmares with dream logic and so that’s kind of what I wanted to capture.
NOFS: I’m so happy to hear you shot on location because there is a really long, really great beach shot and I was going to be crushed if you told me it was all green screen.
MK: Oh yeah- we cleared that beach, we cleared the town, even that house [and] the attic. that was all authentic 1800s built. The house we were in, it was so old that the foundation was tilted so you kind of felt seasick walking through it which made the long takes really hard to pull off. All the fog was real. It was an absolute nightmare too. We would fog up the entire main street and then an ocean breeze would come and whip it all away. It was a learning experience for sure. We filmed January to February 2020 and so when we wrapped, like, two weeks later the whole country ground to a halt. It was literally like Neo dodging a bullet.
[…] The ironic thing was, I was like ‘we’re going to shoot in January so there’s not going to be many people around,’ but I didn’t realize that for all of the Canadian tourists came down because that was their time to come so the whole town was FILLED with these people so what you don’t see off camera are all the people standing around taking pictures. It was like a 1950s movie where Marilyn Monroe is on set, you know, you see all these fans watching. It was really a surreal, weird experience.
“All the fog was real. It was an absolute nightmare too. We would fog up the entire main street and then an ocean breeze would come and whip it all away.”
NOFS: I’ve got to assume it was also a saving grace to have the time to edit while everyone was in lockdown. At least you had something to keep you busy.
MK: Sure, yeah, and I live with my editor too and we like to take our time to edit movies, we don’t like to rush it, it’s my favorite part of the process. So we were like, ‘Well, I guess we can take as long as we want because the world might not be here tomorrow’ [laughs].
NOFS: Have you had much of a chance to write anything while you’ve been at home?
MK: Well, actually, in November I went to Chicago with Joe [Swanberg] and we shot another movie and it was a really crazy experience. I lived in multiple masks for 20 hours a day, for a month. It was crazy! I definitely think doing that movie back to back with Offseason made 2020 quite hectic but, you know, we were very luck and now that we’re able to premiere at SXSW I feel very, very fortunate so I’m just excited for people to see it.
NOFS: I typically save this last question for our podcast but I got big drive-in cult classic vibes from Offseason and I was curious what your dream drive-in double-feature is. If you could program any two movies at a drive-in right now what would you play?
MK: Oh man! Wow, that’s a huge question. The thing that I would want to see at a drive-in, one is not horror but I would want to see Robert Altman’s Nashville at a drive-in theatre, and the other one that would be more horror related I think, obviously, I would love to see Rosemary’s Baby in that drive-in setting. You know, just sitting back in my car. You know, there are other movies that had come out recently that I loved that I wish I had been able to see at the drive-in just because I don’t get out enough. I’m friends with Joe Begos and those guys, and I would love to watch VFW at a drive-in. […] With any luck, hopefully, by the time Offseason comes out I hope the theatres are back up and running but I’m just stoked for people will be able to see it [at SXSX] in some capacity.
“With any luck, hopefully, by the time Offseason comes out I hope the theatres are back up and running but I’m just stoked for people will be able to see it…”
Mickey Keating’s Offseason celebrated its World Premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival. Click HERE to follow our full coverage of the festival and be sure to check out Paul Le reviews of the film HERE. Let us know if you’re excited to check out this descent into cosmic madness over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.