Lace Crater is one of those odd films one can only see on the big screen at festivals. It’s not a film that will find a wide audience as its low-budget and mumble-core stylistic features (naturalistic acting and improvised dialogue) can be alienating to more traditional viewers. However, it’s undeniably a film with merit and displays promise for its debut filmmaker. Therefore before I begin my critical analysis, I want to praise film festivals such as Dublin’s Audi Film Festival (where I saw Lace Crater) for enabling fans of cinema to have access to such strange and interesting fare.
The quirky horror tells the story of Ruth (Lindsay Burdge, Digging for Fire), a young woman who spends a night in a house that may be haunted with her group of friends. The gang drink heavily and engage in some recreational drug-taking. After Ruth receives a voice message from her ex-boyfriend (mumble-core director and pioneer Joe Swanberg), she has a strange supernatural encounter that affects her life in bizarre ways even after the group return home.
Revealing any more of the plot would ruin ones’ viewing experience because Lace Crater, particularly early-on, is incredibly unpredictable. Despite its low budget features, the film’s first half creates an uneasy mood and manages to straddle the line between comedy and horror effectively. The camera-work, which involves lots of close-up on actors’ faces and very fluid movement, feels less like the filmmakers couldn’t afford a high definition wide-screen camera and more like a stylistic choice. The soundtrack by Alan Palomo is also worth noting as his ghoulish jingly synth score adds a potent tension that makes up for the movies’ lack of scary visual imagery.
As the film continues, it does lose steam. In order to portray Ruth’s suffering, there is a heavy use of static pixely imagery which highlights the thrifty origins of the movie. Also, the plot in its middle section becomes repetitive and resorts to some set-pieces that are more loud then horrifying. However, director, screenwriter and editor Harrison Atkins takes the story to its natural but abnormal conclusion and his quick rapid editing techniques mean there is never a truly dull moment. While the supporting cast’s performances vary, Lindsay Burdge’s lead performance is quite good at managing to deliver on the film’s absurd twists with sincerity and Mozart in the Jungle’s Peter Vack (in a role which is a spoiler) is charming.
Verdict: Essentially a mumble-core take on It Follows, Lace Crater is a flawed film that posits an interesting idea and serves as a great calling card for début director Harrison Atkins.
Check out the trailer for Lace Crater below.
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