Frightening and bleak, â€œMartha Marcy May Marleneâ€ is essentially what you would get if you took the psychological derangement of â€œBlack Swanâ€ 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 sisterâ€™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 sisterâ€™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 Marthaâ€™s character, which are nailed perfectly by Olsenâ€™s gripping debut performance.
The filmâ€™s excellent acting is even more commendable considering the movie is exceedingly quiet.
Perhaps the â€œloudestâ€ component is the overwhelming sense of dread that permeates throughout the entire film.
â€œMarthaâ€ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. _