Rainy Season_Featured_1200x630 / Fair use doctrine.

SHORT REVIEW: Rainy Season (2017)

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As regulars to HoTS can attest, back in October of 2016, I became aware of a short film titled Rainy Season when director Vanessa Ionta Wright reached out to HoTS. A quick look at the information confirmed my suspicion: Rainy Season is an adaptation of a Stephen King story of the same name. Since Rainy Season is one of my favorite stories, I jumped at the chance to cover this. Later, I found out that Wright and fellow Rainy Season executive producer Samantha Kolesnik had organized the first annual Women in Horror Film Festival which is being held September 22 – 24, 2017 - more great news!
Then I got the best news. The short film was finished, and I was offered a chance to view and review it. So, without further ado and with many thanks to Wright and everyone involved in the production (as well as apologies for the delay), here we go.
First, it’s important to note that rarely are Stephen King works solely one tone or another. King is known for the dark comedic streaks that are seamlessly integrated into otherwise horrific and terrifying tales. Second, while King often brings monsters into his stories (“Gray Matter”, “The Raft”, Cujo, IT, The Stand), the real focus is the humans and how they react in extreme situations. It’s well known that stressful situations often result in the worst of mankind being brought to light, but they can also bring out the best in mankind. This is something that King handles quite well and which draws us back time and again to see how things work out for his next victim. Finally, one of King’s greatest gifts is his ability to tell a story in a manner that makes the reader want – need – to finish it. It’s incredibly difficult to translate the words to images in a way that’s going satisfy all fans of the written word. That’s why so few of his works have been effectively adapted into the medium of film and video. It takes a director with a deft touch to bring a King story to life on film, and Vanessa Ionta Wright has that touch.
Rainy Season_Willow General Mercantile & Hardware / Fair use doctrine.Rainy Season follows John Graham (Brian Ashton Smith), a college English professor on a book-writing sabbatical, and his wife Elise (Anne Marie Kennedy) as they arrive in Willow, Maine, for the summer. Stopping in at the Willow Mercantile and Hardware, John and Elise are greeted by elderly local Henry Eden (Kermit Rollison) and his dog. Henry spooks the couple by knowing who they are and why they are there before reminding them of the speed at which news travels in a small town. Henry is soon joined by Laura Stanton (Jan Mary Nelson), another local, as he attempts to convince the Grahams to spend the night out of town. Laura backs up Henry, stressing that they’ve arrived on the exact day of the Rainy Season, but rather than convincing them, her words solidifies the Grahams’ view of the two as not quite right. After making their way to their rental cabin, John and Elise settle in for the night, unaware that they will soon find out the two locals may not be as crazy as they first thought.
Brian Ashton Smith and Anne Marie Kennedy are believable and sympathetic as the loving yet troubled couple who don’t seem entirely at ease with one another. Their chemistry is real, and we get the sense that both want things to be better but aren’t entirely sure how to make it so. The trip to Willow is supposed to help give them both new perspective. Their love is clear, but so is the tension affecting it. At the cabin, their shared looks and shy touches reinforce this.
Rainy Season / L – R: Jan Mary Nelson, Kermit Rollison, Anne Marie Kennedy, and Brian Ashton Smith / Fair use doctrine.
Kermit Rollison and Jan Mary Nelson do a great job portraying the locals whose unwilling duty it is to greet the couple. We get the sense that doing it more than every seven years would be too much. As reluctant emissaries of Willow, Eden and Stanton try to welcome the couple without being too welcoming, ultimately suggesting they spend their first night out of town even though they know the Grahams will not.
Technically the film is excellent. Sound and visuals are top notch, adding to the overall effectiveness. With a sometimes ironic soundtrack, Rainy Season definitely captures the feel of the source material – a little bit retro, a little bit modern, and all apropos. Together with the solid acting of the players as well as the impeccable direction, Rainy Season works. Wright makes some difficult choices for the adaptation, but they pay off. The climax made me groan and grin – though the grin may properly have been more of a grimace – simultaneously. She takes us to the edge of an eldritch chasm and leaves us laughing nervously at our escape.
Do yourself a favor. Watch it if you get a chance. It shows there are still directors in the industry who know how to adapt the written word. King fans will be especially happy to spot a few Kingian Easter eggs.
Catch Rainy Season at Attack of the 50ft Film Festival at 7:00pm on June 27, 2017, at The Plaza Theater in Atlanta, GA.

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Posted by Alan Smithee

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