Lavender is like a dream. There is a creeping unease beneath every scene, with cameras that slowly weave in and out of frozen characters suspended in time as in a human diorama, or a slow-motion car crash where the driver is shown floating in zero gravity as the car slooowly demolishes around her. These may seem at first glance to be tricky “look at me” gestures, but director Ed Gass-Donnelly (The Last Exorcism Part II) has a much deeper, more intimate idea in mind.
Abbie Cornish (Robocop 2014) is Jane, a woman around whom, after suffering amnesia from a car crash (where she was trying avoid a girl in the middle of the road…who disappears?), paranormal weirdness commences. There are scary music boxes, little ballerina figurines, appearing and disappearing little girls (who warn her in ghostly whispers about…things), and…a red balloon. Hmmm.
She also discovers that she actually owns the run-down farmhouse that she’s been photographing ceaselessly as part of her art (is this the same house that was the stage for the grisly murders we saw at the beginning of the movie? Hmmmm.). And this is where the real fun starts. Hallucinations start to feel like actual flashbacks, and flashbacks start to feel like hallucinations. It threw me a couple of times and kept me 0ff-balance, which for this kind of movie is good as long as you can still occasionally center yourself.
Justin Long (Tusk) is the doctor trying to help her through this experience, and he is good enough, but not really the commanding presence the character might have needed. The other actors form a good, solid, believable foundation for the craziness that occurs, and that makes Jane’s breakdowns so compelling and her breakthroughs so uplifting. There is a disorienting, cramped chase through a harvest festival’s hay bale maze that is director Gass-Donnelly at his finest, with Jane’s frustration and fear mounting in equal amounts, and Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson deserve a big hunk of praise as well for their jarring, atonal soundtrack work.
As good as all of those elements are (and they are damn good, believe you me, kids), there are still problems with the script itself. The hauntings and what they represent to Jane just aren’t that original. Often did I say to myself, “Well, of course that’s from her room,” or “Ah, the girl is gone. Yawn.” This is a haunted tale that, although it is effective and I still recommend it, doesn’t really blaze any new trails or blow anybody’s mind. It’s a perfectly satisfying thriller with some great scary moments that I think you’ll enjoy.
Especially if you haven’t seen any M. Night Shyamalan movies (oops, I may have said too much). Uncle Mike sez check it out!