Not all monsters are big, gory and foaming at the mouth. Sometimes the most horrifying villain is lying in wait in a person’s mind.
Such is the thematic strategy of Lavender, a psychological horror thriller starring Abbie Cornish, Diego Klattenhoff, Justin Long and Dermot Mulroney.
The film follows the life of a young photographer who suffers memory loss after an accident – which then leads to some creepy things floating into her mind. While there are certainly supernatural, horror elements, the real scary part is that which is brimming beneath the surface. Those memories Jane (Cornish) can’t quite get a handle on.
Director Ed Gass-Donnelly, who also co-wrote the film, has been intrigued by what the memory can do since witnessing the moment when a close friend remembered childhood abuse.
“I find that terrifying and fascinating,” he said. “Memory is sort of a fascinating … sort of character device.”
And it is something “we are absolutely powerless to fight against.”
“When a memory is in your head, you can’t un-remember it,” he said. “You can’t unsee certain images.”
It’s in these anxiety-inducing ideas of memory that Gass-Donnelly roots the film. And there’s also a strong element of mystery as Jane peels back the onion of her mind to reveal more of what she’s repressed. In that sense all of the cast members begin to emanate an aura of suspicion.
“Everybody’s gonna be a suspect at a different time,” he said. “It’s always just trying to create multiple possibilities.”
Another strong underlying element of the film is the location – which revolves around a farmhouse (What could possibly go wrong in an old farmhouse?). The cornfields and lush greenery take on sinister tones even during the daylight.
While Gass-Donnelly doesn’t consider himself a hardcore horror fan, he said he was inspired by the 2001 horror film The Others.
“The biggest thing was when I first saw that movie, I just really connected to the fact … how well performed and how rich the characters were in that movie,” he said. “This is kind of the bar to which you aspire.”