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DIRECTED BY: Amanda Kramer
FEATURING: Ariela Barer, Annalise Barro, Ryan Simpkins
PLOT: Seven young women, unable to leave a house after an earthquake, descend into paranoia.
COMMENTS: A low rumble; growing chaos; a cacophony of destruction: all taking place during a black screen. A destructive earthquake traps eight young women in a house. Rubble gathers up to the window tops, blocking all known exits. We see none of this, but the impression is clear, the sensation of imprisonment rendered wholly through sound design. This background—creaks, crashes, and whirring blades of helicopter—traps us with these confined, forgotten women; a human-sound film score of yelps and bursts augments the dread. Ladyworld is an uncomfortable place, and misery for its inhabitants.
This riff on Lord of the Flies flips the script, gender-wise, exploring the trope from a wholly feminine perspective. Much is the same: feral tribalism bursts through a civil veneer, even in such a small group; spatial confinement melds with a growing hopelessness to trigger listlessness and psychosis, depending on the moment and victim; and sightings of a man lurking in the dark basement add an edge of terror to the ambient menace. By the film’s end, nearly everyone has lost it.
Amanda Kramer plays a risky game with her story. Its strengths and weaknesses are the same cards. There is much repetition—dialogue, montage, and shots—which at times grows tedious; but, that’s the point. Kramer emphasizes the differences between feuding factions—Olivia’s civil-minded, and smaller, cadre on the one side, and Piper’s gangster-clique on the other—more and more over time. Every corner of living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, closet, and, of course, the forbidden basement, becomes trashed, nicely reflecting the state of the party. We see these rooms and developments again and again. And again. You may want to scream, “Enough, already!” But just think of how the characters feel.
Ladyworld is up front in putting its characters and setting right in the title, and it delivers a discomfited vision. It is a film to be endured alongside the story’s victims. While it would have done well—maybe—to be trimmer by a quarter of an hour, it might had less impact. After the opening black screen shot and its destructive sound establishes the ambient tension, it only ratchets up. The audience bears witness to the strain until the unlikely, but apt, finale, when the ladies’ world bursts asunder.
Yellow Veil re-released Ladyworld on DVD and Blu-ray in January 2024, with alternate and deleted scenes, a director’s commentary, two Kramer short films, her otherwise unreleased debut feature Paris Window, and even more extras.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“...it proves its own surreal, savage and superbly performed creation… painfully real in its emotions yet dreamily unreal in its atmosphere, an effective and haunting combination which is heightened by image and soundtrack choices.”–Sarah Ward, Screen Daily (festival screening)