Lace Crater essentially chronicles the consequences of a lonely woman’s sexual encounter with a ghost.
That makes it sound like little more than a feature-length sick joke, and certainly there is comedy in Harrison Atkins’s debut feature, albeit of a deadpan awkward cringe variety. But Atkins is also aiming for serious thematic game despite eliciting laughs out of depicting the spirit, Michael (Peter Vack), as a shy, mumbly type. Lace Crater invites viewers to read it as a cautionary tale about the dangers of one-night stands: Days after her night with ghost-Michael during a weekend getaway with a few of her friends in the Hamptons, Ruth (Lindsay Burdge) is diagnosed with an unidentified STD.
More intriguing than its moralizing, however, is the implication that, despite her postcoital physical struggles, Ruth, having recently gone through a breakup, may prefer the romantic company of a ghost over that of her friends, from whom she becomes alienated. “I didn’t do anything wrong!” she cries out to them at an emotionally climactic moment. Alas, that line doesn’t resonate with the tragic power that it could; Atkins seems less interested in exploring Ruth’s psychological breakdown than in using it as the pretext for a barrage of surreal imagery and creepy mood-painting.
Slight though it may be, Lace Crater‘s mix of Andrew Bujalski–style naturalism and Roman Polanski–style body horror is at least off-kilter enough to keep one absorbed throughout.
Written and directed by Harrison Atkins
Opens July 29, Cinema Village