Starring Abbie Cornish. Rated PG
The “you can’t go home again” adage gets another spin around the spooky farmhouse in Lavender, a would-be psychological thriller with few thrills and even less psychology.
Director and cowriter Edward Gass-Donnelly is very confident, stylistically. That isn’t always a good thing, especially when a film and its cast need some occasional beats to gather themselves and move at a human pace, if only to provide contrast for the scary stuff. Weirdly, the spooks don’t arrive until more than halfway into this 90-minute effort, which aestheticizes everything, from the slow-mo start and finish to a whole lot of having children stand in doorways like they’re posing for stills from Poltergeist VII. (Gass-Donnelly also directed The Last Exorcism Part II, which is not far off.)
Australia’s Abbie Cornish struggles with her accent as Jane, a woman in an unnamed Midwestern town (actually rural Ontario). A terrible car accident doesn’t change her makeup but does trigger terrible memories. She, or someone, killed the rest of her family, with the only apparent consequence being that she was raised by foster parents and now is generally surly to her bland husband (Homeland’s Diego Klattenhoff) and petulant daughter (a monotonous Lola Flanery).
Jane spends her copious downtime photographing dilapidated dwellings, eventually stumbling on the place where the bad thing happened; it’s now maintained by her late dad’s secretive brother (Dermot Mulroney). Hmmm. Odd packages and small blond girls suddenly appear wherever she goes.
Thanks to lugubrious pacing and relentlessly doomy string music, her mental state never really changes, even when she’s prompted by a shrink (Justin Long) who also has a lot of free time. No sense of geography is conveyed, so when Jane finally visits the old homestead with her young family, we have no idea why she moves in; the place has been closed for a quarter-century and they don’t even shake out the sheets! Of course, it’s obvious why they must end up in that damned house—because where else would the funding be found?