Our mind is more than capable of playing tricks on us, and time can warp how we recall events from the past. Within the mind exists a number of defense mechanisms that prevent us from acknowledging or reliving some of the most painful moments from our lives. That’s the idea behind the new psychological thriller from director Ed Gass-Donnelly, Lavender. From the opening scenes of the film it’s established that the film’s main character has been subjected to past trauma, it’s just a matter of what is the nature of the trauma – is it psychological or supernatural? Lavender takes its time to get around to answering its central question in a movie that isn’t quite as thrilling or unsettling as it thinks itself to be.
Jane (Abbie Cornish) has always had problems remembering the little things like doctor’s appointments and such. She’s a photographer, snapping photos of old homes which sells at her own gallery. Following a car accident, Jane is having more memory troubles than ever before, even having moments where she doesn’t remember her husband Alan (Diego Klattenhoff) and daughter Alice (Lola Flanery). Jane starts suffering from bizarre visions that plague her and leave her feeling unsure of what’s real and what’s false. A psychologist at the hospital, Liam (Justin Long), attempts to help her uncover the source of the memory loss, and suggests that she return to her childhood home. Upon traveling home, the visions intensify and a series of unusual events occur. Meanwhile, Jane is able to reconnect with her Uncle Patrick (Dermot Mulroney), who still seems to be grieving the loss of Jane’s parents many years ago. But it’s only a matter of time before Jane unlocks the mystery buried within her mind and uncovers the source of all her traumas.
The biggest problem facing Lavender is the film’s inability to effectively escalate its story. As I mentioned before, the trauma is teased in the opening frames of the film leaving us to wonder whether the terror is entirely psychological or supernatural. Director Ed Gass-Donnelly and co-writer Colin Frizzell seem to think that just teasing a variation of the same kind of unusual happening will suffice to keep the audience interested but it really seems to be more of a way to just take its time before reaching its revealing conclusion. It really says a lot about Lavender that the most unsettling and interesting aspect of the film’s horror is the evocative score by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson, and at a point it seems that the music is doing most of the film’s heavy lifting as Gass-Donnelly seems to be leaning too heavily on the music for the film’s tone.
When Lavender does reach its climax (the exact details of which I won’t reveal here) it goes in the most unimaginative direction possible, hoping to have it both ways without anything new to add to the genre. It all revolves around issues of pedophilia and sexual assault in a manner that only feels exploitative in the worst ways possible. Gass-Donnelly and Frizzell’s script saves an array of reveals for the film’s final act and it becomes a situation that is sheer overload, dumping details that would’ve been much more effective if slowly revealed over the film’s previous 90 minutes. The conclusion just leaves one to shrug and go, “So that’s it, huh?”
Lavender is competently shot and acted in every regards but the script is just lacking in terror or suspense that it quickly becomes tiresome as it drags out its central mystery throughout the film’s entirety. It’s never a good sign for a thriller or a horror film where the music is the most unsettling aspect. If you’re spooked by repeated nursery rhymes in a whisper or a child saying those very same nursery rhymes in a drawn out delivery, then perhaps you’ll find some scares in Lavender. If you’re looking for a little more, just keep looking past Lavender.
- Overall Score
A psychological thriller that isn’t quite thrilling, Lavender fails to escalate until an overloaded final act that is equal parts exploitative and unimaginative.