Sunday, March 20, 2016

In short: Lily Grace: A Witch Story (2015)

When his estranged father dies, lawyer Ronald (Scott Seegmiller) inherits his 70s-style futurist house in the Louisiana woods. The things he finds there suggest that either his father suffered from rather hefty mental problems or was inconvenienced by a witch called Lily Grace (Sonya Cooke). Ronald quickly tends to the latter explanation, seeing as said witch – looking rather dead, one must say – comes around for a spooky visit or two.

Somehow, Ronald does or does not grab a purse out in the woods. He’s visited by Jake (James Palmer), a petty criminal desperately looking for said purse. Because Jake’s not the brightest bulb in the candelabra, Ronald manages to convince him he doesn’t have the purse, and somehow starts talking him into helping him out with the witch. You see, Ronald’s father had drawn up a plan for a witch trap, but building it is a two man job. During the course of meandering around and preparing the trap, Ronald and Jake even kinda-sorta become friends.

Things become more complicated when some other criminals on the trail of Jake and the magic purse of wealth arrive too.

Wes Miller’s Lily Grace is a bit of an ambiguous experience, not only because it tends to be vague about all kinds of things on what seems like general principle instead of narrative needs, but also thanks to a plot that wavers and meanders with the best of them. It’s as if there’s a price to win for not saying or doing anything in a direct or straightforward manner, and Lily Grace really needs to win it.

So the film generally takes its time with providing information helpful to understand what’s going on in it, or what story it is actually telling; and when it delivers it, it tends to do so in the most needlessly confusing and imprecise manner possible. Even simple questions like “what makes the purse so valuable?” are beyond the film’s powers to answer (because it’s a metaphor and stuff, one supposes), and let’s not even get started on the witch, what she does, doesn’t do, and means or doesn’t mean.

On the positive side, Miller does make some fine, moody use of the Louisiana landscape, a haunted house that doesn’t look all that haunted but can feel like that, and acting performances that make the best of the script’s lack of definition and the generally meandering pace. Even though I don’t think the film’s pay-off is actually worth the all-around vagueness, I can’t say I was ever bored by the things Lily Grace got up too, even if they don’t amount to anything much narratively, or emotionally; and while the meandering here never got me into the trance state of a Jess Franco film, it’s at least on the more interesting side of that quality.

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