Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TIFF Day 5 - Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Incident

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin)
Pretty much what the positive advance buzz suggested it would be, this drama about an escapee from a cult/commune plays more like a horror film. Each cut threatens to find our heroine (Elizabeth Olsen, very solid) trapped back on the proverbial ranch, which lends the entire film a deeply unsettling feel. Olsen’s performance is largely non-verbal, but her nervous tics and constant backward glances make her anxiety palpable. “Fear… makes you truly present,” one character states, and that couldn’t feel more appropriate than in this film where the past is so ferocious that it threatens to overtake the present at any given moment. I’m less sold on the interactions in the present. The “real” family here behaves somewhat less than plausibly at times, some of the parallels between past and present are too tidy, and these scenes are often perfunctory opportunities for Olsen to spazz out (I imagine this stuff could make for a singularly fucked up sitcom). Still, a wonder of sustained tension that really helps viewers to understand how traumatic this type of trauma must be.

Rating: 69/100

The Incident (Alexandre Courtes)
Dismal. Four bandmates in a heavy metal band (for no reason whatsoever are they in a heavy metal band) take a day job at the local insane asylum. During a blackout, the patients rebel, taking down the hospital staff. Half of the run time here takes place before the run-time, and it’s excruciatingly slow-paced. After darkness falls, the film only offers a series of scenes in which people run around in the dark hitting one another (you’d be hard pressed to tell one character apart from another here). The last fifteen minutes are finally gruesome and mildly effective, but it’s far too little too late. Apparently, IFC picked this up for a Pay Per View release. That’s probably more than it deserves.

Rating: 21/100

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