A weekend getaway to heal a lovesick heart ends up creating problems that are out of this world in the creatively campy drama, “Lace Crater.” Taking inspiration from such films as “The Invitation,” “Donnie Darko,” and most notably “It Follows,” writer/director Harrison Atkins conjures up an unlikely love story in a world that is equal parts humorous and horrifying…sweet and sinister.
After a bad break-up, Ruth (Lindsay Burdge) and a group of her friends escape to the Hamptons for a much-needed getaway weekend. The beach house they are staying in is owned by Andrew (Andrew Ryder), one of the guys in the group and also the subject of Ruth’s innocent crush. Upon deciding on the sleeping arrangements, Andrew warns that one of the rooms, “the “Coach House,” is haunted, but unfazed, Ruth volunteers to take the room anyway with little regard to Andrew’s claims.
After a night of drinking, Ruth returns to her room, alone. An uneasiness sweeps over her body as a door slowly opens in front of her. Suddenly, a ghostly figure wrapped in a burlap sack appears in the doorway, standing nonchalantly. What seems like a silly low-budget monster-like character turns forgivingly sweet because of his sincerity. He calls himself Michael (Peter Vack) and, as it turns out, he is not so scary after all. He lays on the bed next to Ruth as if he is in a therapy session, sharing his views about life on earth being an endless cycle, referring to life as “the thing” he is “part of,” but does not “exist inside of.”
Ruth and Michael feel the connection between them and begin to get intimate. The music intensifies to the sound of a space jungle/lasers as they consummate their only hours-long relationship. However, the blissful moment is just that, a moment, sparking the beginning of Ruth’s downward spiral. This includes waking up covered in goop every morning, vomiting black liquid, and overall paranoia. She can’t escape the dark cloud she finds herself under, and no matter what anyone does to try to help, Ruth is ultimately left to cope on her own.
If you are familiar with Lindsay Burdge’s past work (“The Invitation,” “The Midnight Swim”), you’ll have a pretty good idea as to what to expect in “Lace Crater” which is pretty much this: what starts out as inviting and warm one moment, turns unexpectedly terrifying the next. There is a sense of ease portrayed in the interactions between characters, thanks to this mumblecore-style direction from Atkins, which makes them more relatable and sympathetic.
“Lace Crater,” produced in part by veteran independent film director Joe Swanberg, should find its niche nicely in the art house/horror community. Ultimately, if you are able to accept the absurdity of it all and not demand answers to the question, Why? – you’ll get the maximum enjoyment out of this gem.
“Lace Crater” is not rated. 83 minutes. Now playing at Arena Cinema and available exclusively on FlixFling with a national rollout to follow.