Warning: Spoiler at the end of this review
An amnesiac has a spectacular car accident that shakes loose some hidden memories of her younger self. Obsessively trying to piece together her past, she goes to live at the farmhouse of her youth. Canadian director Ed Gass-Donnelly co-writes and directs this mysterious melodrama involving a woman passing into a strange world of repressed memories and perhaps the supernatural.
‘Lavender’ would have made a good 1970s TV-movie or a just-okay current theatrical film. This is more an exercise in suspense than one of logic and it satisfies neither suspense nor logic. Horror film fans who do not suffer from amnesia will have seen much of the film’s content before.
Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10.
Abbie Cornish plays Jane, a woman who remembers only parts of her youth, and who is fixated on the past. She likes to take pictures of old abandoned farmhouses to try to recreate a feel for earlier days. But when she is almost killed in a car crash, she starts seeing visions of her own forgotten past, images she might have preferred to forget. She discovers her parents and sister were murdered in a massacre reminiscent of ‘In Cold Blood’ and now Jane is starting to remember her nightmarish history. She discovers that a farmhouse she photographed and which had fascinated her had been her original home.
There are indeed creepy things going on in the old house and someone is leaving her small wrapped gifts that are artifacts of her past. Ed Gass-Donnelly, who co-authored the script and directed, has tried to foster suspense by having Jane have slow explorations of the house, never finding a lot important. That is one problem for the viewer. He is put through a lot of suspenseful scenes but makes little progress toward solving the central riddle and is never completely solved. What is solved is only what is suspected anyway.
There is cinematic homage to ‘The Shining’. Jane’s daughter, Alice, seems to have an invisible imaginary friend who talks to her about her mother, much as Tony talked to Danny in the Kubrick film. Also, while ‘The Shining’ had its topiary maze, ‘Lavender’ has the main character hysterical in maze built of bales of straw. Don’t people in horror films know there are simple strategies like the right-handed rule to avoid getting lost in a maze?
The farmhouse was subtle. It does not scream ‘haunted!’ the way Eel Marsh House did in The Woman In Black. The film manages a little bit of atmosphere, but the story is too predictable and not enough original. I would rate ‘Lavender’ a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. ‘Lavender’ will be released to theatres, VOD and digital HD on March 3. 2016.
SPOILER AHEAD: If you want to know how things are going to turn out in the plot, notice the film stars Abbie Cornish, Dermot Mulroney, and some lesser-known actors.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2017