Rainy Season is a dark, tense supernatural thriller that succeeds because of the emphasis on the tension rather than on the supernatural.
Based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name, the plot is deceptively simple: a young couple has come to the town of Willow, Maine for some alone time at a cabin. But when they stop to buy supplies in town, they are warned by a pair of elderly locals to get as way as fast as possible. You see, Willow has a secret: every seven years it rains carnivorous toads and some unlucky visitors get eaten as a sacrifice to the evil gods that keep Willow prosperous and happy. Naturally, the young couple laughs it off and goes back to the cabin, only to discover the awful truth that night when the rain starts and the old cabin can’t be sealed tight enough.
This is the type of story that is both familiar and difficult to pull off. King does it well by focusing on the small-town feel, gradually building the tension, and then smacking us with a powerful description of what the young couple must endure.
Translating this to film, however, presents a host of additional problems, the most obvious of which is how to create realistic carnivorous toads on a shoestring budget. Director Vanessa Ionta Wright and her production staff solved this problem neatly by shifting the focus of the story from the toads to the young couple, John and Elise, played convincingly by Brian Ashton Smith and Anne-Marie Kennedy. Rather than turn this 20-minute short into a cheap, shlocky bloodfest, Wright uses a good portion of the film building the relationship between the audience and John and Elise. We get to know them, their quirks, their hints of marital strife, their love for each other. And because of the warning they received, we begin to feel the tension building inside us as night draws closer and the rains begin. And then things go bump in the night. During the final scenes, Wright and the camera crew follow the Hitchcock adage of less is more when it comes to seeing the monster, so there’s never a chance for the suspension of disbelief to be broken by the sight of goofy rubber toads stuck to screaming actors. Instead, the tension continues to rise throughout the attack, with John and Elyse fighting for their lives in a cabin that has been turned into a pitch-black maze where every turn, every doorway or window, leads to more danger.
Rainy Season was made as part of Stephen King’s Dollar Baby program, where King allows budding filmmakers to adapt one of his stories for just a dollar, with the understanding the resulting film can only be shown at festivals, never used for making money. It’s a program designed to help directors and producers hone their craft and show what they can do, and in this case it has been a great success.
Both Wright and Executive Producer Samantha Kolesnik (who also partnered on I Him Baked a Cake, another horror film) work wonders keeping this film grounded and realistic from beginning to end. Brian Ashton Smith and Anne-Marie Kennedy are very believable as John and Elise Graham, and Kermit Rolison and Jan Nelson are great as the two townspeople who try to do the right thing (although not too hard, ha ha!). Smith and Kennedy really do well during the final scenes in the cabin where tone of voice and facial expressions are critical as they react to what’s happening. A real treat is the music, which, under the auspices of Ross Childress (formerly the guitarist and songwriter for Collective Soul), adds to the overall atmosphere of the film without going overboard.
All in all, Wright, Kolesnik, and the rest of the team succeed in doing the near-impossible with this plot: delivering a film that provides some real chills without descending into B-movie territory.
Official Trailer: Rainy Season Trailer
Director: Vanessa Ionta Wright
Samantha Kolesnik - Executive Producer
Stephanie Wyatt - Producer
Mark Simon - Director of Photography
Kevin Peterson - Producer
Ross Childress - Original Music & Score
Starring: Brian Ashton Smith, Anne-Marie Kennedy, Kermit Rolison, Jan Nelson
John, Elyse, Laura, Henry