Dec 112011
Authors: Jason Berlinberg

Frightening and bleak, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is essentially what you would get if you took the psychological derangement of “Black Swan” and toned it down to a human level.

The film begins in the middle of the overarching story, with main character Martha (Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) fleeing into the woods. We do not know why she is running, but she is utterly terrified.

She makes her way to a pay phone and is able to get a hold of her sister, who picks Martha up and takes her to her secluded vacation house.

During her stay, Martha suffers flashbacks of her time at that place she escaped from, which we learn was a sequestered farm where she participated in cultish activities like drinking the Kool-Aid and having sing-a-long time.

Martha struggles to assimilate to her sister’s regular way of life, obviously still reeling from her time with the cult and its sadistic leader (John Hawkes).

This captivating struggle is evidenced in the film when shots switch seamlessly from scenes in the cult commune to scenes at the sister’s vacation home.

Both environments have uncanny similarities, ones that Martha cannot help but notice in her psychologically vulnerable state.

This heightens the uneasiness and complexities of Martha’s character, which are nailed perfectly by Olsen’s gripping debut performance.

The film’s excellent acting is even more commendable considering the movie is exceedingly quiet.

Perhaps the “loudest” component is the overwhelming sense of dread that permeates throughout the entire film.

“Martha” does not have jump-out-at-you type scares, but the creepy, cult atmosphere and flashback commune events are truly frightening.

_Movie reviewer Jason Berlinberg can be reached at _

â…˜ Stars

 Posted by at 12:04 pm

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