J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

DWF ’17: Lore

We tend to idealize Native legends in a hippy-dippy New Agey in-tune-with-nature kind of way. That sort of thinking will get you killed in these mountains. Ann and Rich’s son Eric was not the first teen to go missing in these parts, but her maternal connection tells her he is still up there somewhere. The freshly divorced parents are sure to find something when they head up the mountain in Christian Larsen & Brock Manwill’s Lore (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Dances with Films.

Apparently, Eric did not take his parents split well, so he retreated into the woods to have himself a long think. When he failed to emerge, Sheriff Paul and his men thoroughly searched their face of the mountain and the tribal police handled their side, but no trace was found. They assume (and hope) Eric is actually a runaway, but Ann’s dreams tell her differently. Eventually, Rich reluctantly agrees to one more private search, with John, the Native American guide recommended by their pastor. Of course, as soon as they get a fair distance into the woods, they start hearing eerie sounds. It soon becomes clear something is trying to scare them off, but it only spurs Ann to continue forward with more urgency.

Aesthetically and temperamentally, Lore is a betwixt-and-between sort of film. Yes, there is definitely something in those woods. Larsen & Manwill certainly do not want viewers to get too comfortable, but they are still obviously more interested in their character study of the grieving parents. Lyndsey Lantz and Max Lesser are quite good as the divorced couple, suggesting all kinds of shared history, still remembered grievances, and lingering affection. Sean Wei Mah also has real presence and outdoorsy cred as John. As a further plus, it is always cool to see Eric “Work Ethic” Roberts do his thing as reasonable Sheriff Paul (his early scene in Lore was probably the fifth film he shot that day).

However, there is no getting around the fact Larsen & Manwill over-promise and under-deliver in the mythical beast department. They also drop some monster “lore” that they never circle back to. Still, most viewers will get sucked into the couple’s tragic drama regardless of their expectations (it is worth noting DWF did not program Lore for their midnight section, so we can’t fault their positioning).

In fact, Lore is a well-made, finely acted film, but it will be a challenge finding the right audience for it. Lantz and Lesser deserve particular shout-outs, but it should be readily admitted Roberts quite good in his umpteenth guest star-walk-on appearance. Recommended for those who like their genre films restrained and brooding, Lore screens Tuesday (6/6), as part of this year’s Dances with Films, in Hollywood, USA.

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