Overview: After suffering an accident, a young woman returns to her childhood home to confront her demons. AMBI Group; 2016; Rated PG; 92 minutes.
Diorama: Lavender begins ambitiously with a stylish still-life look at a farmhouse in bloody chaos. Flash forward 25 years later to photographer Jane (Abbie Cornish) who exclusively photographs old abandoned farmhouses. Frequently suffering bouts of memory loss and episodes of prolonged vacant staring, Jane’s childhood has affected her life deeply even though she doesn’t know why. After a dreamy slow-motion car accident that aggravates old injuries, Jane is encouraged by her psychiatrist to visit her childhood home in an effort to revive her failing memory.
Familiar Faces: Featuring Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers, Tusk) and Dermot Mulroney (The Grey) this cast is no stranger to the genre and perform their roles to expectations. But it’s difficult to effectively portray a woman on the verge. It takes something special, and while she gives it her all, unfortunately Cornish doesn’t quite ever hit the mark. Little Lola Flanery plays her charming daughter, Alice, whose cheeky nature will endear the audience. Whether she’s asking pointed questions or eerily referencing ghosts, she has an onscreen charisma that will take her places beyond her current role in the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist.
Staples: Get out your sub-genre checklist. Creepy children’s songs, violin crescendos, mysterious anonymous gifts, whispers, bouncing balls, and locked rooms . . . Lavender has it all. This is the type of movie that could be picked up and moved anywhere in the country and it would look the same. Fortunately the film is picturesque with most of the horror taking place in the daytime for a different touch. The charm of the old farmhouse isn’t dampened by the horrors that lie within which sets an almost whimsical mood that pairs well with the cornfields and hay maze Jane finds herself lost in. Lavender‘s classic horror influences are obvious, and genre fans will enjoy noting them all regardless of their efficacy.
Heartwarming: The relationship between Alice and Jane’s husband Alan (Diego Klattenhoff) is lighthearted and filled with touching humour. Klattenhoff manages to effectively play an irritatingly impatient husband and a likable doting father at the same time. As is the case with most horror flicks, marital strife is on the rise, and darker emotions run high as Jane recollects the story of her life. While the themes are heavy, at times they’re also heavy-handed. The family horror is fully revealed as we join her in putting the pieces back together, but just when you think the puzzle is complete new pieces emerge. Whether they fit or not is up to you. The final ten minutes are spent wrapping up loose ends and wiping away the tears with a touch of questionable vigilante justice.
Overall: While dealing with mature themes, the movie stays true to its PG rating. Exhaustively wrapped up in a quaint red-satin bow, Lavender is an inoffensive yet predictable addition to the genre. Fans of haunted houses and mysterious dark secrets might enjoy its twists and turns, and those with an eye for beauty will appreciate Gass-Donnelly’s clean, sharp style of film-making. Hopefully Lavender is only a step up for his affecting visual storytelling to reach its full potential. In the end, those looking for something special will ultimately be disappointed.
Featured Image: AMBI Group