9. A trashy movie: Lavender (2016)
List Progress: 5/12 (+1)
Ahh, low budget horror from the depths of Netflix, you scratch an itch like nothing else can. There’s something about this category of films that appeals to me, even as they don’t tend to be well-written or particularly well-acted. Mostly, I’m in it for large emotions, overwrought atmosphere, and some interesting visuals, and the 2016 horror-drama Lavender met that bill quite nicely. It even includes a lot of amnesia, that classic trope of horrors and soap-operas alike.
Professional photographer Jane has made her career with artistic, moody portraits of old farm houses, in an attempt to connect with a part of her life and piece of her memory that was stolen from her. When she was seven, she was found alive and injured in her family’s house with the murdered bodies of her mother, father and sister. As an adult, she has no memories of anything about her family or her life before she entered foster care, and this has left a longing in her heart. When an injury in the present day starts to unearth her repressed memories, she, her cheating husband, and her young daughter must go back through her previous life to unearth the truth.
Given that set-up, I was expecting a thriller, or at least a madness-or-magic back and forth within Jane, and was surprised when supernatural elements were confirmed very early in the film. The movie in general has an odd relationship to pacing, introducing some elements too early, and some far too late, with some sagging dead air in the middle. That dead air is also due to one of my major criticisms: no one in the story, including her husband and doctors, seem too concerned about how this severely brain-damaged and traumatized woman is doing. I understand that the film didn’t want the hospital to be its main setting, but it needed some real time skips to get rid of the impression that she was sent home from a car accident (after which she couldn’t remember her husband and daughter) with a bandaid and a “good luck”. Her brief stint of amnesia in the present day is a very unnecessary addition that raises the danger level of the situation without changing any of the other character’s reactions to it, making them all seem uncaring and very blase about her well-being.
I did for the most part have a good time with Lavender. There are some nicely imaginative set-pieces and the atmosphere had me hooked for most of it. But other films and shows have done this better. This movie reminded me a lot of the tv “adaptation” of The Haunting of Hill House, which I mean both as a compliment to Lavender and an insult to Hill House. If you have a craving for this very specific type of movie, it won’t lead you astray, but a casual viewer isn’t going to benefit a lot from it.
Would I Recommend It: Not emphatically, but if you like spooky slow-burns, maybe.
As a sidebar, it amuses me that there is almost no reason for this movie to be called Lavender. It’s not a character’s name, the plant isn’t involved in any plots or set pieces, and it’s not gay, but they introduce a children’s rhyme in the third act that uses the word “lavender” a lot. What the film clearly wanted to be titled was “Olly Olly Oxenfree”, as that nursery rhyme gets used a lot in the story, the introduction and the conclusion. The video game Oxenfree came out in January 2016, maybe they had to change quickly.