When a mysterious signal from an unknown dimension summons the end of days, it appears as if only Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) is left on earth. Trapped in the apartment of her recently deceased best friend, the only clue she has is a single cassette left behind after her friend’s death, labeled “THIS MIXTAPE WILL SAVE THE WORLD”.
Thrust into a mystery orchestrated by her friend and stricken with grief, Aubrey begins to piece the clues together, uncovering a series of tapes all with pieces of the mystery signal. Along the way, progress is impeded when monstrous creatures begin to overrun the world and enclose in on her. Aubrey is forced to fight off the encroaching creatures and move beyond her own crippling grief in order to find the remaining tapes. But will completing the signal save the world?
The synopsis for Starfish cannot adequately convey the rich and heartfelt world that the film creates. With incredible effects by Marc Hutchings (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Spill Studios, and featuring an animated sequence by Tezuka Productions (Astro Boy), it’s a deeply moving and brilliantly creative cosmic horror that will leave you speechless.
Starfish is beautifully shot with a firm but gentle focus on actress Virginia Gardner, whose performance earns the camera’s attention. There’s a graceful stillness about her that is compelling to watch.
At its root, Starfish is about guilt, grief and loss. The score – composed by writer/director A.T. White – has a lush simplicity that plucks at your heartstrings and reverberates these emotional themes.
Just as vital for a film about a series of mixtapes is the soundtrack, which was compiled by White before he wrote the script. A playlist was created for the lead character (based on the songs she would be listening to) and played during the writing process, so that the music became integral to the action. The result is a gorgeous marriage of sight and sound.
Gardner carries herself with a weary weight that effectively communicates the grief and guilt she quietly holds on to. Intrusive thoughts plague Aubrey during quiet moments and chase her in her dreams.
Like the Lovecraftian monsters that haunt Aubrey, she can’t wait out her guilt and she can’t outrun it. It’s in these moments that Starfish hits the hardest — these flinches of painful memories that knock her off track. We see a young woman struggling with her loss while trying to mitigate the end of the world. Aubrey is tasked with closing her own emotional wounds and apocalyptic gateways to an alternate dimension.
Though we gain little information about Grace – Aubrey’s recently deceased best friend – her analog apartment is pumped full of personality, building her character through her personal space.
There’s a beauty and reverence to Starfish that reveals itself in these snapshots — a brief focus on details that paint a picture of the vibrant young woman that Grace was, shot with loving intimacy and scored with beautiful, melancholy music.
It’s an incredibly intimate and personal movie surrounding the loss of a dear friend, based on events in writer/director A.T. White’s own life. All proceeds that White makes from the film will be donated to cancer research.
Set against the backdrop of cosmic horror, Starfish is a beautiful film that explores the nature of loss. Driven by a captivating performance from Virginia Gardner and mixed with gorgeous cinematic visuals and a graceful score, it’s a stunning feature debut from A.T. White. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
Starfish will be released on VOD/digital on May 28th.
For more indie horror, check out the delightfully deranged trailer for Harpoon