‘Lavender’: Film Review

Abbie Cornish plays a photographer attempting to uncover secrets from her past in ‘Lavender,’ Ed Gass-Donnelly’s horror thriller.

Characters in horror films would be well advised to heed a couple of simple rules: Repressed memories should by all means stay repressed. And whatever you do, avoid walking through mazes.

Unfortunately, such advice would be lost on Jane (Abbie Cornish), the heroine of Lavender, the latest effort by director Ed Gass-Donnelly (Small Town Murder, The Last Exorcism: Part II). A photographer who specializes in shooting rundown, abandoned farmhouses (not hard to see where this is going), Jane finds her life upended after a serious auto accident that leaves her with memory loss.

The Bottom Line

More style than substance.

Prodded by an eager hospital psychiatrist (Justin Long, conveying gravitas with the help of a goatee) who discovers that her skull had suffered multiple fractures many years earlier, Jane attempts to explore the secrets of her past. These include the brutal murders of her parents and sister, none of whom she remembers, when she was a child. She also discovers that an old farmhouse with which she’s had a particular fascination was her childhood home, the site of the slayings, and has been taken care of since then by her uncle (Dermot Mulroney).

While pursuing the mystery, Jane begins experiencing disturbing phenomena, including the mysterious appearances of tiny gift boxes providing clues to her past and fleeting visitations from the specter of a young girl who offers ominous warnings in whispery tones. Jane also finds herself compelled to walk through a large maze composed of bales of hay, and it doesn’t work out any better for her than it did for Danny in The Shining. None of this does much for her already strained relationship with her husband (Diego Klattenhoff) and their young daughter (Lola Flanery).

The screenplay, co-written by Gass-Donnelly with Colin Frizzell, manages to be simultaneously lacking in coherence and utterly predictable, with viewers earning no points for guessing which one of the characters turns out to be the villain. But the filmmaker does have a talent for creepy visuals — including a vividly hallucinatory sequence depicting Jane’s car crash — that keep the proceedings suitably tense. Unfortunately, the effect is lessened by the thick slathering of overbearing musical cues notifying us exactly when to be scared.

Its final act featuring various things going bump in the night and would-be shocking plot twists, Lavender ultimately emerges as a case of style over substance. Partially compensating for its familiar air is Cornish’s effective performance, which makes her character’s predicament more involving than it has a right to be.

Production companies: South Creek Pictures, 3 Legged Dog Films
Distributor: AMBI Media Group, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Diego Klattenhoff, Justin Long, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Screenwriters: Colin Frizzell, Ed Gass-Donnelly
Producers: Ed Gass-Donnelly, David Valleau
Executive producers: Emily Alden, Tex Antonucci, Monika Bacardi, Jason Garrett, Andrea Iervolino, Alexandra Klim, Jennifer Levine, Silvio Muraglia, David Rogers
Director of photography: Brendan Steacy
Production designer: Oleg M. Savytaki
Editor: Dev Singh
Costume designer: Anne Dixon
Composers: Sarah Neufeld, Colin Stetson

92 minutes