Martha Marcy May Marlene | Movie Sidebar | Chicago Reader

Martha Marcy May Marlene 

The M is near

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The horror aesthetic of B-movie producer Val Lewton—that the unseen is more frightening than the seen—is carried to a merciless extreme in this unnerving debut feature by writer-director Sean Durkin. An alluring young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) escapes from the wilderness dominion of a charismatic cult leader (John Hawkes) and hides out with her older sister (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy) at their secluded vacation home. As the narrative slips back and forth between her increasingly awkward stay with the couple and her gradual initiation into the cult two years earlier, Durkin reveals how the sisters have been pulled in opposite directions by the death of their parents. But the story structure also nurtures a creeping, finally unbearable dread that may have you looking over your shoulder all the way home.

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