Movie Review: LAVENDER (2017)

Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the horror/drama LAVENDER by writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly.  To best describe the story, I will turn to the modified IMDB plot summary:

“After losing her memory in a car accident, a woman begins to see a therapist to fill in the gaps. When she and her family visit her childhood home at the therapist’s request, something begins playing with her mind.”

The opening to this feature is one of the most beautifully orchestrated beginnings in recent memory.  The perfect mix of freeze frame, music box score, and tragedy makes for an instantly memorable start.  As we start to see the extent of the horror, the music adapts a chilling undertone that elicits the idea of innocence lost.  Without much more than a few words, the entire theme of the film is shown to us in these opening frames.

We are fortunate that they decided to populate the movie with many equally stunning shots that highlight the beauty amidst the horror.  As if out of the ghost stories of yesteryear, most of the cinematography involves slow, well composed framing that never leaps into hyperkinetic territory.  This focus on pacing helps give this an old world feel while it also highlights the family drama aspects of the story.

The plot itself dives pretty deeply into the ideas of family trauma, perception of self/events, and losing one’s innocence.  While some of these themes are more reliant upon subtext, most of them become very clear to the viewer thanks to our lead’s psychiatric appointments.  This lends a grounded, psychological aspect to the horror that makes one question whether there truly is a supernatural force at work or is it all just in our lead’s head.

Given the weight of the themes, it was impressive that this never felt stifling or too melancholy for its own good.  While there are definitely some sad moments, most of these scenes are not done just to make us feel gloomy, but instead stem directly from the characters.  These roles are written with a nice, naturalistic feel to them that puts an emphasis on the relationships (or lack thereof) between the characters.  As such, the majority of the interactions smartly eschew exposition and rely upon plenty of subtext.

Since we have already established that this picture has a strong story that is very reliant upon the unsaid words, we must now examine the acting.  For the most part, I found all the performers to be quite strong, even those in lesser roles.  There were moments when our lead actress seemed like she was forcing the lines, especially near the beginning, but as the feature went on this habit disappeared.  As the film goes on and the creaks and shadows come more into focus, the entire cast gets a few moments to shine.

All in all, this is a beautifully framed picture that keeps the horror incredibly character focused. The themes are pretty deep, but are presented in such a way that even a casual viewer should come out feeling satisfied.  Fans of the exquisite composition of THE SHINING (1980) or the paranoiac mystery of SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) should go out of their way to catch this feature.

LAVENDER will be released in select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on March 3, 2017

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