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LACE CRATER (2015)
Directed by Harrison Atkins
Written by Harrison Atkins
Starring Lindsay Burdge, Peter Vack, Chase Williamson, Keith Poulson, Jennifer Kim, Andrew Ryder, Drigan Lee, William Nadylam, Betsey Brown, Kati Skelton, Joe Swanberg
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Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Full of quirk, wit, and a heavy dose of what haters tend to label as mumble-core, LACE CRATER is an infectiously creepy film like nothing you’re bound to see this year.
Just getting over a breakup, Ruth (Lindsay Burdge from THE INVITATION and on THE MIDNIGHT SWIM) goes to a cabin in the woods with four of her friends (JOHN DIES AT THE END’s Chase Williamson, SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME’s Keith Poulson, plus newcomers Jennifer Kim and Andrew Ryder) to party and forget about the woes of their twenty-something world they left behind. Being the shy one of the bunch, Ruth takes the guest house to sleep in and is especially intrigued when she hears that it might be haunted. After a night of drinking and doing ecstasy, Ruth goes to her room and after hearing a noise in the shadows, jokingly challenges the ghost to come out and show itself. To her surprise, a ghost named Michael (Peter Vack) appears and still high on X and alcohol, Ruth’s fascination with the ghosts leads to a one night stand with the supernatural. But upon returning to her life in the big city and thinking the whole thing was a drug-induced dream, Ruth is shocked to find herself undergoing…changes that indicates that she may have caught some kind of STD from her night with a supernatural being.
From the description above, one might assume this film is a comedy—some kind of hipster ironic version of GHOST, but that assumption would be wrong as this film veers more into uncategorizable territory. The initial meetup between Ruth and the ghost Michael is definitely something filled with quirk and levity. Michael shows up bundled in a mound of burlap and isn’t really trying to scare Ruth as much as he is trying to make a connection with her. And the way Ruth simply accepts the fact that he is a ghost and moves on to flirting with him is odd, but given her current state of drunkenness as well as her loneliness, it sort of makes sense that her curiosity gets the better of her in this situation. But what comes after this ghostly one night stand is the stuff of true nightmare, reminiscent of recent films BITE, CONTRACTED and THANATOMORPHOSE, three films which, like this one, depict in gross detail the horrors of experiencing an STD soon after a night of anonymous sex. The latter portion of this film focuses on Ruth’s shock that her body is literally falling apart and how her friends react to both her insane claims that she slept with a ghost and her bizarre behavior since the weekend getaway. In both cases, the fantastic is handled with a realistic and horrifying manner that caused a great sense of unease in this viewer.
And this believability in the fantastical elements and the sense of unease conveyed is mostly due to the uber-strong performances from the entire cast of indie actors. This isn’t a film reliant on major effects. Filmmaker Harrison Atkins does a great job of using rudimentary camera effects and quick edits to convey an otherworldly mood. But this is a film that is carried by its actors for the most part. Many might up-snout this type of film because it falls into the rather demeaning category of mumblecore, especially with the late in the game appearance by mumblecore creator Joe Swanberg. I can see where this almost too casual way of communicating lines can feel rather bland, but delivered by this cast and even though the lines are sometimes muttered out in a drunken or lazy haze, they still feel electric—specifically from Burdge who really steals the show here as the lead. A good portion of the film focuses mainly on her, even through the partying scenes at the beginning and the actress does a fantastic job of allowing you into her vulnerable and conflicted way of seeing life.
The final moments of this film again go into the realm of quirk, even though the events leading up to them are grotesque and horrifying. And that’s what I love about this film. LACE CRATER is not something you can predict or fully understand. It sort of fumbles through its story in the same manner its protagonist does, but it’s that kind of vulnerable and honest portrayal of how uncontrollable life is that is both the most terrifying and most appealing aspect of this odd, yet amazing little film.
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