Jethica Uniquely Crafts an Entertaining and Poignant Ghost Story

Photo courtesy of Cinedigm

For the last year, I have had Jethica on my radar. The film premiered last March at SXSW to rave reviews and still holds a 93% positive certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this review. Jethica will catch you off-guard, beginning slow with creepy atmosphere and shifting to a quirky and charming feel-good tone by the end. It’s an off-beat ghost story of miscues, consequences, guilt, and repentance that is unique in the genre. If you’re expecting a fright, Jethica won’t be for you, but if you demand a human element from your ghost tales, you may be delightfully surprised. 

Elena stands behind Jessica looking toward the camera in Jethica
Photo courtesy of Cinedigm

On the outskirts of Santa Fe, Elena (Alien: Covenant’s Callie Hernandez) lives off the grid on the acres of land left by her grandmother. She’s friendly enough, picking up a local hitchhiker Benny (Spree’s Andy Faulkner), whenever she can, but her life is somewhat lonely and isolated. While stopping for gas one day, she notices her high school friend Jessica (The Beta Test’s Ashley Denise Robinson) and invites her over for coffee. Jessica is antsy when we meet her and more than a little out of sorts. She wavers on joining Elena, saying she’s heading out of town until she decides to drive to Elena minutes later.  

The musical score and Jessica’s behavior provide a good amount of suspense on her car ride to Elena’s. While chatting over coffee, Elena inquires about what drove Jessica from L.A. She reveals that she’s had a stalker writing her notes, filling her voicemail, and showing up at her house. Kevin’s (The Wolf of Snow Hollow’s Will Madden) last messages say he’s en route to Jessica now, and the inferred reason why Jessica was flustered on her departure from town. Jessica stays with Elena for the evening, and in the morning, Kevin appears on Elena’s front lawn rambling in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way. His lisp on her name provides Jethica with its title. Jessica informs Elena that there is no way that Kevin could have found her, submitting his body in the trunk of her car as proof. 

With more than a few references to It Follows, director Pete Ohs and the crew of writers/actors breathe life into a similar world of actions and consequences and their emotional toll. The stalker may get what he deserves, but that doesn’t stop his living actions from continuing to cause harm after his life is ended. Jessica finds it hard to trust Elena. There’s a wall up from this experience, and it’s difficult for her to allow Elena in. Add to that the terror and anxiety of continuing to see Kevin everywhere after she’s killed him, and you get a sense of the mental distress placed on victims. Elena has her secrets too, but as the two starts confiding in each other, the movie thematically shows that no matter how dark the situation, having someone to help carry the burden can be cathartic.

Kevin stands in a spotlight in the desert in Jethica
Photo courtesy of Cinedigm

While Kevin’s anger-fueled tirades are soaked in toxic beta male angst, when he becomes a ghost, there’s an easier way for him to be approached because he can no longer cause the living any physical harm. What we learn from Kevin is that he isn’t unlike the rest of our characters, and they’re all connected by a sense of loneliness. Jessica, propelled by fear, winds up in Santa Fe because of Kevin and, on a reactive measure, ends up killing him. Elena stays in Santa Fe for her own guilty reasons. Things unfold throughout Jethica so that you see all the characters as fallible and how they cope with the choices, thinking they need to be secluded and can never be redeemed.

At the start of the film, it may be easy to tell by how loose the narrative is that Jethica doesn’t really have a script. There are a lot of long takes focused out in the open desert propelling the audience to get a sense that this wide-open space is desolate and unforgiving. Both arrangements fit the sentiment of the film, and the sweeping sound design provides excellent tension. Still, the imagery is retrospectively understood, and in the moment, one can consider the pause it causes in a seventy-one-minute film. Some could consider it filler at first and consider it essential on a rewatch.  

Elena confronts Kevin in the desert in Jethica
Photo courtesy of Cinedigm

Jethica is a good watch. It’s entertaining and poignant, bringing a situational absurdity to the premise that makes it fun, even if it isn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny. I’d put it in the indie darling category. Parts of the film will have some genre fans considering the bemusement of 2020’s Extra Ordinary, while the sociological aspects will draw a comparison to 2021’s Dimland. It has a kind of sadness that considers cell phone disconnection and social withdrawal, forging relationships through understanding and being present with another person. However, there is room for improvement in how the film concludes narratively, leaving some things nuanced and others distinctly detailed. 

Ultimately, Jethica has some feel-good characteristics that will endear the film festival crowd and those looking for a horror-adjacent film. The movie treads into macabre territory with dread-induced morose storytelling, but horror hounds looking for something scary won’t be jumping or screaming. Catch Jethica in the right mood, and you’re bound to have a good time, but this near-bloodless film about trust and connection won’t be what everyone is looking for. 

Jethica is available to stream exclusively on Fandor beginning February 14. 

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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