I’ve never been a big follower of the Mumblecore style of film making. For those not familiar, Mumblecore involves low budget, sometimes unprofessional actors speaking in a very naturalistic way, even improvising lines. It often focuses on relationships and dialogue over actual plot. I mean, I get it. I can appreciate it. It’s just not my cup of tea. I find it boring from what I’ve seen.
Director/Writer Harrison Atkin’s 2015 horror story Lace Crater starts out very much a Mumblecore film, but quickly turns into something a lot different and a lot more interesting to me. A group of twenty something friends get together for a wild weekend of drugs and sex in a secluded house in the Hamptons. This first twenty minutes of the film is really what made me think I was watching a Mumblecore film. An evening of drinking, hot tubbing, drugs and conversations about what makes the world go around ensue. Ruth,(Lindsay Burdge)after calling it a night, returns to the supposed haunted guest house she is staying in. There, she meets a young man named Michael, (Peter Vack) who steps out of the shadows dressed in a weird, burlap suit that covers him from head to toe. Michael seems normal in every aspect except for his strange attire. He tell her he is dressed that way because his skin is very sensitive. But the conversation he and Ruth have uncovers the truth about him. Could be the drugs and booze on Ruth’s part, but after a while the two have sex. Ruth awakens the next day and Michael is gone, and Ruth’s world is about to turn upside down.
Ruth begins to show physical signs that may she may have contracted an STD from Michael, but this not your average STD. And the toll it takes physically as well as mentally is the meat of the story. Things take a scary turn as Ruth begins to not only see herself fall apart as a result of her union with Michael, but her relationships start to take the same road. And the physical toll is nothing to sneeze at. There is more slime and ooze than I ever thought I would see in a movie like this. And you feel for Ruth. Her fright and confusion are very well acted by Burdge.
And that is what really kept me interested in this film. The characters feel real, their reactions are real. I mean,think about it. Think about how hard it would be to tell someone you cared about that you have a sexually transmitted disease, but got it by hooking up with something that you had no idea what it was? These types of ideas run throughout the film. Ruth feels isolated and alone and you have that feeling of dread for her that it’s only going to get worse. Lindsay Burdge really does an outstanding job here.
I’ve seen this movie listed as a comedy in some places, but I would be hard pressed too call this movie a comedy. The subject matter is very chilling and very weird but not funny for laugh’s sake. There is humor in the film, but it comes from the character’s interaction with one another. Especially Ruth and Michael. Their scenes are charming and heartfelt, but in no way did I ever get the idea that they were making fun of the material. It’s like when two people are meeting for the first time and talking for one another and there is some awkwardness and stumbling to find out things about one another. Which makes what ultimately happens at the end all the more heartbreaking. Heartbreaking, yes, but satisfying in a strange way. Again, this movie is about relationships and how we handle them in certain situations. And this story as a metaphor for that is handled very well in this film.
I also loved the direction of the film and the camera work. Atkins really plays loose and fast with some unconventional camera shots that really pay off. Especially when it comes to conveying Ruth’s mental state. The camera goes in and out of focus in scenes as Ruth wrestles with bad dreams and visions, as the buzzing sound design only adds to the confusion and paranoia she feels. The movie is shot beautifully.
I really have to say I liked this movie. There have been a lot of horror films that handle the subject of sex kills. Most recently, It Follows, which was one of my favorites of the year. But unlike it’s predecessors, Lace Crater really is striving to be it’s own animal. And in my opinion, it succeeds. As horror fans, we have to wade through a lot of garbage to find something interesting and different amidst it all. And that’s exactly what Lace Crater is. Different. And by all means interesting.
Lace Crater (3.5 / 5)
Lace Crater is written and directed by Harrison Atkins
Starring Lindsay Burdge, Peter Vack
Produced by Visit Films/ Forager Films