A woman searches for her missing son in a remote wilderness with the help of her estranged husband and a Native American friend. When an evil creature starts to hunt them, their journey becomes a fight for survival.
Sean Wei Mah
For those of you who have been reading my reviews, lo these several years – you’ll recognize one of my oft-used catchphrases. It doesn’t come out every single time it might be appropriate, for it might lose some of its power. But on occasion, I will screen a film which will yearn for the return of a line of dialogue from the cult classic, Mommie Dearest.
Faye Dunaway chews the scenery as Joan Crawford. And in the scene where she is asked about her thoughts on a particular script she’s been given – as a potential next role – she lifts up the script, shakes it and says with venom, “It’s not goooood!”
And with the new indie horror/thriller Lore – which had its world premiere at this year’s 20th Annual Dances with Films in Los Angeles – I’ve found yet another place where this bit of dialogue fits the bill perfectly.
Divorced parents Ann and Rich (Lyndsey Lantz and Max Lesser; respectively) are at the end of their ropes when an official investigation into the disappearance of their teenage son, Eric (Derek Grange) is called off. They decide to search another part of the mountainous forest where Eric was last seen. But they must venture into a Native American reservation, with the aid of local Native American guide; John (Sean Wei Mah). As they get further into the woods, it becomes apparent that some sort of ancient creature of Indian folklore is hunting them. But the parents will stop at nothing to find and hopefully save their beloved son.
There are probably far too many problems to properly cover in such a relatively short review, so we’ll hit on the big stuff.
Across the board, performances are lackluster. Matching the lack of urgency in the film itself, are the ho-hum performances from Lantz and Lesser. The lack of focus in their quest to find Eric – is mind-boggling. It feels like there should be an almost constant sense of unease and desperation as the search proves more and more dangerous and unfruitful, but both of the actors never bring more than what amounts to mild concern – to their acting here. It’s certainly not all of their fault, as the script is all over the place (and sometimes just plain stupid – there’s plenty of ill-advised and unmotivated wandering off) and the editing does nothing to increase the breathlessness that a film like this should have.
But no actor is more terrible than Derek Grange as Eric, the missing son. He has only a couple of scenes, but they’re dreadfully awkward. You’ve often heard the glowing phrase, “He just has ‘it’.” Grange doesn’t have “it” and brings nothing to the table. It’s actually painful. His performance makes the work of his on-screen parents appear halfway decent – and again, they’re not.
The filmmakers use a few flashbacks to further establish the relationship between the estranged parents and their young son. But they never work and frankly don’t offer anything to push the story ahead. A big problem is that the filmmakers are relying on the fact that a parent/child bond is inherently strong. But they simply don’t work at making the audience believe this particular one. Yes, I’ll buy that a parent would stop at nothing to save their lost child, but for the purposes of good drama and a forward-moving story, we need to fully believe that these parents will do whatever they can to find their kid. What is their special bond? What sets them apart from every other family unit who loves one another?
In Lore, I didn’t buy it. There’s barely enough exposition for us to really get behind Ann and Rich – and on top of that, there’s zero chemistry between the actors. And since we see so little of Eric – we get even less chemistry there – between on-screen parent (s) and son. The bottom line is that we just don’t care.
The film’s dialogue is terrible. I don’t generally make a point in my reviews to note that I’m also a screenwriter, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. Numerous times characters would say something, and then a second character would say, “What are you saying?” or “What?” It’s been my experience that such question/replies are absolutely filler. They mostly serve no purpose and a scene or script can be tightened just by taking out some of these inane lines of dialogue. But the fact that I heard it so many times, it became a distraction and proves that the script was either not workshopped well (or at all) and that proper edits were never made.
Also on the topic of the script: If the writers had been smart, they could have immersed the entire film in Native American lore – perhaps found some sort of social justice angle. But the film is just shallow and doesn’t take advantage of the Native American locale and the rich history (and superstitions) of these indigenous peoples. Whether or not the supernatural legend at the film’s center is based on real tales – I don’t know. But as is, the experience is flimsy and boring.
There are plenty of things left unexplained in the film (who’s the little girl? – among other spoiler-esque observations) and sometimes that works… sometimes it doesn’t. In Lore, unanswered questions only seem to further shut down an already bored audience, rather than tantalize and engage its viewers in conversation once the film’s over.
The film could have been tightened as a whole. Scenes become repetitive – as the couple is lost in the woods, night after night. There’s seemingly a call out to the “did you hear that?” rock-sounds and cracking twigs of The Blair Witch Project – minus the found footage aspect. But where that film amps up the tension as each new sound is heard – in Lore, it only serves to make the audience say inside their head, “Again with the creepy sound effects and no payoff. Ugh.”
A big bummer about the film is that the gloriously picturesque locations they used (some national parks in Idaho) are practically wasted. We get some beautiful shots of the woods and mountains… but that’s it. Other than a few follow shots as the characters move through the woods – most of the camerawork is static. Static shot. Cut. Static shot. Cut. Static shot. Cut. There is simply no inspiration in the cinematography.
While there are a couple of fun “boo” moments, the overall film is completely lacking in suspense and that all-necessary build-up of tension.
Oh. There is one shining light of hope. Veteran actor Eric Roberts appears as a local sheriff in one early scene. He can always be counted upon to offer up some legitimacy and quality.
Other than some breathtaking scenery direct from the natural wilds of Idaho, Lore has nothing of value to offer. With terrible dialogue, uninspired performances, sympathy-less characters and the missed opportunity to make something meaningful and deeply Native American, it’s just not worth your time.
Say it with me again, “It’s not good.”
Lore is just beginning its festival run, so no information is available regarding a wider release.