“Jethica”’s ghosts are lonelier than its living humans overall, mostly because they’re only able to touch each other. (Their hands pass through the living, like in “Ghost.”) Other than that, there’s not much difference between the living and the dead in this film. Both are hanging around, purposeless, haunted by the past, and paralyzed by the future. And the film’s quirky, sardonic approach to its ghost story is refreshing, as is the lack of fear with which its characters confront the dead people in their front yard.
Ohs’ sense of humor recalls that of “May”’s Lucky McKee or “Excision” director Richard Bates Jr., but drier. And, as with those directors, when one of Ohs’ jokes lands, it really lands. And when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. “Jethica”’s comedic instinct is to make Kevin the butt of the joke, which seems right; if anyone should be mocked here, it’s the psycho stalker. But the way Ohs and his co-writers go about this is by letting Kevin rant at length about how he just loves Jessica so much and one day she’ll see that we’re meant to be together—a tactic that simultaneously repels the audience (seriously, he’s really annoying) and softens the edges of Kevin’s crimes.
At one point, Madden paces and monologues for a full four minutes, which highlights the film’s other fatal flaw: Even at a trim 70 minutes, “Jethica” feels padded out, like a great 30-minute short rattling around inside of a feature film. In practice, this means lots of lingering shots on the mountain valley that surrounds Elena’s grandma’s trailer. Again, this impulse is understandable: An independent film has to get its production value where it can, and the stark New Mexico landscape in winter does add significant natural beauty to the movie. But it also slows down an already unhurried film.
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