From the very beginning, Lace Crater seems intent on how sex is socially different for men than women. Lace Crater, the latest from Harrison Atkins, begins with a man boasting about a woman who would crawl across his lawn and eat dirt in some sexualized way. The women, on the other hand, speak about attractive men in hushed whispers during a pitstop. This difference is especially noticeable once the rest of the running time of the film plays out.
The main narrative trajectory of this “mumble-core” film is that our protagonist, Ruth(Lindsay Burdge) has a one-night stand with a ghost while vacationing with a group of friends. While that sounds a bit silly, the film approaches it in such an understated and casual way it actually seems more realistic than some other relationships that have previously been portrayed on film. This night of paranormal passion comes at a price, however. Soon after, Ruth begins to exhibit physical symptoms that could only be described as a ghastly body horror type of STD.
The notable thing about the running time of the film is how it contextually parallels that opening sequence. Instead of communicating what is happening to her, to openly tell her friends that she had a night of irresponsible sex, she hides it. Considering the men’s discourse within the film, one could argue that if Ruth was a man she would be boasting immediately that they had just scored with this super hot apparition. For Ruth, and for her female friends in the film, this boastful tone seems foreign. They talk about relationships and sex in hushed tones, awkwardly approaching each other without really addressing what is actually happening. In that sense, Lace Crater is more a film about sex across the sexes than a straightforward body horror film.
Along those same lines, when Ruth is exhibiting symptoms that can’t be hidden any longer, her friends withdraw. They don’t offer assistance or any guidance, they simply avoid her. One could read this as our own distaste for any confrontation with a woman’s sexuality. The film is also very voyeuristic towards Ruth’s body. Her femininity being leered at from the shadows. Again, this could be seen as a female’s sexuality only being safe from a distance.
As for the ending, let’s just say things end strangely for Ruth. It is this ending that also causes ambiguity to the apparent theme of the film. It shifts from a seemingly study of sex roles within our current socio-sexual construct and into a sweeter love story. Instead of a villain, this film ends up with levels of confused and mildly sad characters. No-one is intentionally oppressing, no-one is aggressively controlling, it is a group of people who have been programmed with certain social roles. When those roles don’t quite fit specific personalities they become confused and lost. So in this way, the ghost is a basic symbol of any of us who don’t quite fit into any caste or role. When we don’t know the rules, we don’t know what part to play.
All of this makes Lace Crater an interesting, yet sometimes meandering film. At times it seems as confused as its characters, but at other times it feels pointed and powerful. So while we may not understand completely the meaning of anything happening on screen, it will all somehow feel familiar.