Isn’t it ironic the way that sci-fi/horror movies have been predicting the mass destruction of the human population by alien invasion for years, when it turns out that it was going to be a pair of earthly viruses — COVID-19 and Republicans — that would be the culprits?
Of course, there’s no way that writer/director/composer A.T. White could have known that when making his debut feature “Starfish” (Altered Innocence), now available on Blu-ray and via VOD.
Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) is struggling to deal with the death of her BFF Grace (Christina Masterson). Following the late December funeral, Aubrey takes shelter in Grace’s apartment, which is a sort of museum of oddities. When she wakes the next morning, Aubrey realizes that something is wrong. There is no electricity, the landline is dead. Out the window she can see smoke from fires in the distance. Outside, there are abandoned cars and bloody trails in the snow, and no people. Then there’s the monster that chases her inside a café.
Aubrey receives instructions from an anonymous male voice on a walkie talkie. Once she’s safely back inside Grace’s place, she learns that the man was a friend of Grace’s. That a mysterious signal, buried in a radio transmission, opened a doorway and caused everything that is happening. That Grace “found something” and left the details in an envelope with Aubrey’s name on it.
That “something” is “the mixtape that will save the world.” Aubrey listens to it and discovers that Grace was involved with a group that found a correlation between events; man-made and natural disasters, and linked repeated patterns. Aubrey is warned that people are after the computer code and that it is up to her to find all seven of the tapes Grace hid in various locations, thereby saving the world.
Drawing on a variety of influences, including Alex Garland’s “Annihilation,” Matt Reeves’ “Cloverfield” and even Ken Russell’s “Altered States,” “Starfish” is a hallucinogenic and haunting tale of mourning, regret, survival and salvation. With the exception of just a few scenes, including the funeral, and flashbacks involving Grace, as well as a recurring beach scene, Gardner is on her own, and as such is the glue that holds “Starfish” together. The deluxe Blu-ray edition includes almost three hours of bonus material as well as a CD featuring White’s score.
Screen Savor is a weekly column from SFGN’s film critic Gregg Shapiro. Shapiro is an entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in regional LGBT and mainstream media outlets. Shapiro is the author of seven books including the 2019 chapbooks, Sunshine State and More Poems About Buildings and Food. Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.