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Trim Season Film Review: Stoner Horror Delight

The outline of the left side of the face of a woman against a green background in the film Trim Season

Ariel Vida’s Trim Season is a fun stoner horror movie that overcomes its first-act problems to create an ambitious piece of filmmaking.

Director: Ariel Vida
Genre: Horror
Run Time: 100′
US Release: June 7, 2024
UK Release: TBA
Where to watch: in theaters & VOD

Before diving into Trim Season, I think it’s wise to place it into a wider context. Marijuana, or “Weed” as most people call it now, has gone through quite the mainstream revision over the years. In 1936, director Louis J. Gasnier released Reefer Madness, a melodrama made with the intent to teach parents about the ills of smoking weed so they can protect their children.

Despite this intent to educate, the film quickly became a cult classic with one unlikely target: stoners. Soon after, stoner cinema became crucial to Hollywood’s neverending mission to cater to the youth. Stoner comedies were a dime a dozen, with classics like Pineapple Express and Half Baked finding success in different ways. Some were instant box office hits; others found a second life through home video and formed a cult following. However, it’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen a classic stoner picture and even then, they’ve mostly followed a more comedic formula. Many stoner comedies have been released over the years, but what about translating that cinematic culture into horror? That’s where Ariel Vida’s Trim Season comes into the picture.

Trim Season follows Emma (Bethlehem Million, of Sick), a young woman living in L.A.. From the outset, Emma is a character in a constant struggle. Her phone screen has extensive cracks, her car’s windshield is damaged, and the engine is faulty. When she is fired from her job, she attempts to calm her many struggles with her friend, Julia (Alex Essoe, of Midnight Mass), by spending a night out in town. While enjoying this brief relaxation together, Emma and Julia are given the opportunity to work in a secluded farm to trim marijuana plants.

Needing the cash, Emma takes on the job and joins a small group on the farm to begin work. However, what starts as a potentially relaxing and fun work activity quickly turns sour when the farm’s dark secrets begin to make themselves known. From then on, Trim Season quickly presents itself not just as a horror film but as an amalgamation of stoner culture and the macabre in fascinating ways.

A woman has bloodshot eyes and dripping blood from her mouth in the film Trim Season
Trim Season (Paper Street Pictures)

As surreal as Trim Season can get in its second half, the first surprisingly attempts to be quite naturalistic. The film’s cinematography is flat, and the dialogue from its characters is delivered in a way that feels like an attempt to be realistic and authentic to modern language today. While this could be potentially effective, its application here makes Trim Season feel somewhat undercooked in its first act. The performances from its refreshingly diverse cast are consistently strong, but the script feels unconfident in how it wants to present not just these characters but the overall world it resides in. The cheap look, when crossed with the more surreal ideas at play, makes for a strange watch at first that doesn’t quite work the way it potentially could. 

However, the film quickly finds a groove when the story gets rolling narratively, and our characters make their way to the farm. Around the halfway point, there’s a very engaging sequence where our cast of characters lay out their personal beliefs and struggles. It’s a brief and straightforward moment but one that shows Trim Season at its best. Even in its weaker moments, there’s a strong sense of unity here with its cast that elevates the overall uncertainty of its script in the first half and allows the more surreal second half to thrive in its own offbeat way. The dialogue might be stiff sometimes, but the cast brings enough natural weight behind the words to make those early beats engaging.

Once Trim Season can entirely focus on its folk horror trappings, it’s clear that Ariel Vida’s passions begin to shine through. From then on, the cinematography takes a massive leap in quality, with some incredibly effective lighting and surprisingly visceral gore. There’s a campiness to the overall mythology that works, thanks to how both its cast and director choose to present it. There’s no effort here to rework its strange ideas into something more conceivably realistic. Instead, the focus is put on how these supernatural elements can work in a more dreamlike environment. There’s not much Trim Season has to play with other than a farm and the forest, but rest assured: the film takes advantage of its surroundings quite effectively.

Trim Season (Paper Street Pictures)

Trim Season takes a little too long to get going, but for those willing to stick around and let things develop, you’ll be rewarded with a fun, engaging stoner horror movie with strong ambitions. Not everything works here, but at a time when we routinely see many horror movies released with the same familiar execution, it’s refreshing to see something so unashamed to take swings. The flat photography can make things feel a little cheap at times, but the commitment to its mythology and concepts is enough to elevate this beyond the micro-budget it has at its disposal. Trim Season is a series of swings, and not all of them work, but the sheer fact that it has the confidence to attempt them makes it an exciting piece of filmmaking in its own right.

Stoner cinema isn’t quite in the mainstream as it used to be, but if this is a possible sign of its resurgence in a whole new generation, it’s a fascinating return to a subgenre of cinema that is brimming with potential across all genres.

Get it on Apple TV

Trim Season will be released in US theaters and on demand on June 7, 2024.

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