4. Martha Marcy May Marlene
Director: Sean Durkin
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet
Release Date: October 21
Why we’re excited: No one can knock Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s business skills, or even their longevity. But it’s about to be made abundantly clear that the family’s most talented actress doesn’t have Full House on her resume. Elizabeth Olsen, the twins’ younger, and much hotter, sister, was the belle of this past January’s Sundance Film Festival thanks to Martha Marcy May Marlene, the 22-year-old’s awe-inspiring film debut. Independently made, the psychological thriller/drama crept up on Sundance’s top pundits, folks who’d never heard of the little creepfest but haven’t forgotten it since viewing it at the festival.
Having recently seen it ourselves, we’re right there with them. Olsen is a revelation, channeling an army of inner demons to play an emotionally damaged and extremely paranoid girl who flees from a sadistic cult and tries to reconfigure her life at her older sister’s (Sarah Paulson) crib. First-time writer-director Sean Durkin’s film conveys an uneasy mood through jumbled chronology, flashing back and forth from Olsen’s past cult traumas (orchestrated by John Hawkes in a disturbing performance) to her current living conditions.
Durkin also shrewdly uses tight close-ups to drill home her fears and wide-angle shots to provoke they’re-coming-to-get-me suspicions. Once the film’s ambiguously haunting final shot hits, Martha Marcy May Marlene’s blend of proficient filmmaking and art-house macabre will totally register. Mark your calendars.