Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest Review – Trim Season

FrightFest Review – Trim Season

Ariel Vida, a production designer on the likes of The Endless and Something in the Dirt, makes her directorial debut with Trim Season, which has a clutch of ‘written by someone … based on a screenplay by several people … from an idea by someone else … tidied up by the director*’ credits that perhaps explain its blips of awkward storytelling and over-egged plot set-up.  Sometimes, the film feels like a stoner trying to come to a point while telling a scary campfire tale – but Vida has (of course) a great eye, and when we eventually get to this film’s version of a cabin in the woods, it’s a splendid locale populated by interestingly ‘off’ folk.

Emma (Bethlehem Million) gets fired from a waitress gig and given notice to pay overdue rent and get out of her accommodation on the same day, and her always-fails-a-callback actress best friend Julia (Alex Essoe) takes her out for a bar crawl … they run into a sort-of-friend Pua (Paris Warner), who introduces them to slightly skeevy charmer James (Marc Senter), who recruits them for a high-paying two weeks up in California’s ‘Emerald Triangle’ marijuana plantation trimming the product (we get a lecture on how this is done).  Along with three other marginal types – they/them Dusty (Bex Taylor-Klaus), immune-to-pain Lex (Juliette Kenn De Balinthazy) and jittery/amoral Harriet (Ally Ioannides) – they’re driven up a mountain to a remote location.

Having signed up for fringe illegal work, the trimmers have to put up with obvious omens – leaving their cars at a base camp, masked armed goons on ATVs, no transport out of the location, makeshift accommodations, quixotically enforced rules and regulations, and dinner table sessions with witchy marijuana matriarch Mona (Jane Badler).  Eventually, someone tokes from the wrong stash and bad things escalate – involving Carpathian voodoo, crops watered with more than just blood, psychic powers, divided loyalties and other night-time activities perhaps calculated to give the weed industry a bad name.  It’s admirable in its range of non-conventional female (or afab) characters – one admirable thing is that there’s so much diverse representation the film isn’t compelled to make its minority characters sympathetic or ‘strong’.

Million has it slightly tough as the ‘final girl’, who has an interesting character trait to overcome – frankly, she’s a doormat who takes blame she doesn’t deserve – but doesn’t register as well on screen as the supporting trimmers (Essoe continues to be one of the most valuable presences in genre film) let alone grande dame Badler (a pop culture immortal as the hamster-eating lizard woman from V), impeccably coutured in 1930s style with more pearls than the South Sea produces in a year hung round her neck and a set of evening gloves which conceal witchy stigmata of Roald Dahl proportions.

*I’m exaggerating, but it’s scripted by Vida and David Blair from a story by Sean R. DeMott, Cullen Poythress and Megan Sutherland.


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