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While it may not offer many frights, “The Jessica Cabin” is a haunting look at loneliness that shines with queer representation.

The Jessica Cabin landed on digital in late 2023. Read on to find out if you should rent, stream, or skip it. 

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Can you ever truly know someone else? That’s the question at the heart of writer and director Daniel Montgomery’s film The Jessica Cabin. The queer comedy-horror movie follows a pair of lonely ghosts haunting the titular rental cabin.

The story begins with Nicky (Chase Williamson) and Preston (Will Tranfo), two men embarking on a romantic rendezvous to the cabin for the weekend. Immediately, the film’s gritty style and deep coloring give it a gorgeous seventies feel despite the fact that it takes place in modern times.

The red cabin has a southwestern motif inside, with a cow’s skull prominently featured over a painting of a desert landscape. The isolation of the desert is felt immediately, and it seems that the young lovers are completely alone.

However, they fail to notice the shadowy figures inside the cabin, even as Preston presciently notes, “These days, someone’s always watching.”

In this case, the watchers are Jackson (played by writer/director Montgomery), a gay male ghost, and Taylor (Riley Rose Critchlow), a nonbinary ghost. Jackson and Taylor quickly become wrapped up in the personal lives of the current renters.

Nicky plans to propose to Preston, but unbeknownst to him, Preston hasn’t been loyal. Jackson, who has developed an otherworldly crush on Nicky, decides to save Nicky from a painful future with Preston. But as Jackson’s obsession with Nicky grows, he makes a decision that will change the relationships inside the cabin forever.

Just as The Jessica Cabin features many “doubles” – pairs, couples, reflections in glass – the film itself slides back and forth from being a dark comedy to being a haunting film about queer friendships, loneliness, and the tenuousness of human connection.

The Jessica Cabin

The relationship between Jackson and Taylor provides the anchor for the film and a mirror for LGBTQ+ viewers to see themselves and their friendships reflected. On the more bittersweet end, the film also shows the disillusionment that can grow between even the best of friends.

The humor Montgomery includes in the film provides a nice reprieve from the heavier elements of the plot (including suicide, homophobia, and murder).

As ghosts, Jackson and Taylor’s “seen it all before” deadpan delivery is right on the nose.

When aqua-haired Jackson tries to prove to a straight female ghost that he’s not romantically interested in her, he exclaims, “I’m gay. You couldn’t tell? Look at my hair – I’m gay, like very, very gay…. I was listening to Lana Del Rey!”

This ill-fated crush leads back to the film’s main question – as Jackson and Taylor often ponder, is it possible to ever really know another person?

As the disappointed heterosexual ghost realizes her fantasy of Jackson is just that – a fantasy – she sadly tells him, “You’re not who I thought you were.” Before she leaves the cabin forever, she paraphrases queer icon Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” as she says, “Me? I’m nobody.”

RENT IT, STREAM IT, OR SKIP IT?
STREAM IT. While The Jessica Cabin is tonally inconsistent, it’s an interesting portrayal of loneliness, and the film is full of queer representation. While the movie isn’t genuinely frightening, it is deeply sad; ultimately, you start to understand the twisty motivations of the left-behind ghosts who haunt the cabin.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

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