Lace Crater


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Lace Crater
"Lace Crater shows no more respect for genre than it does for the (meta)physics of ghost sex, and this is one of its strengths."

Even before the story begins, Ruth (Lindsay Burge) is on the outside.

Perhaps it's a side effect of breaking up. Everybody else seems to be on course in life, even in their twenties. Ruth's course is askew. On a weekend trip to the Hamptons with friends, a brave attempt to fit back into the middle class white liberal template, she sits awkwardly on the sidelines as others pair off; she opts to sleep alone in a low brick building referred to as the coach house. Here, though, she's not as alone as she expected. He shambles in, wrapped up in burlap. He's not a burglar, he assures her, saying he's sorry if he freaked her out. So what is he?

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At first it doesn't seem to matter. Meeting somebody as awkward as her is a relief, and Ruth is essentially a polite person, not the sort to make a fuss as he blinks in and out of view around the room. Is he a ghost, a spirit? she asks. He's, um, Michael. And underneath his robes he's sort of cute, or at least cute enough after a lot of alcohol on a lonely night. He can't remember when anyone last touched him, so it seems quite natural in its unnatural, supernatural way that they end up in bed together. When he's gone the next morning, that's okay too. Ruth is back with the script. Life is following a familiar pattern. Until she vomits up black ooze in the back of the car on the way home.

Lace Crater shows no more respect for genre than it does for the (meta)physics of ghost sex, and this is one of its strengths. It's also unafraid to be arty. After the willfully disorientating editing in the sex scene, director Harrison Atkins uses unfocused shots and oddly framed close-ups to take us inside Ruth's mind as something starts to go seriously wrong with her body. Increasingly confused and apparently suffering from memory lapses, she's lethargic, nauseous and achy. The doctor she sees starts asking polite but worrying questions about her sex life. Her friends, at first sympathetic, withdraw in disgust as the burden of her illness becomes apparent. Atkins takes those John Hughes images of young people who will treasure their friendships forever and sets them on fire, but most of what we see is the smothering, choking smoke.

Lace Crater is sometimes a comedy, sometimes a horror film, but at its core is something bleaker than either genre is ordinarily willing to contemplate. Its mumblecore dialogue and shrill synthesiser soundtrack frame a brutal tale of alienation and, beyond that, reanalysis of life's possibilities - perhaps of life. Many people with chronic illnesses - especially invisible ones like depression - will connect with Ruth's plight. Atkins doesn't labour this, however, and he knows when not to offer explanations. Misfortune is, ultimately, a difficult thing to explain. Ruth and Michael, in their different ways, are just two people blundering through the world trying to figure out who they are. With this daring first feature, Atkins has announced his own presence loudly and clearly, and he's not going to disappear.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2016
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A woman encounters a strange presence in a guest house.

Director: Harrison Atkins

Writer: Harrison Atkins

Starring: Lindsay Burdge, Peter Vack, Betsey Brown, Steve Girard, Jennifer Kim, Drigan Lee, William Nadylam, Keith Poulson, Andrew Ryder, Kati Skelton, Joe Swanberg, Chase Williamson

Year: 2015

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: US


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