TERRIFYING TIFF: ON “MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE”

Martha Marcy May Marlene is not a horror film, but Rosemary’s Baby was a big influence on director Sean Durkin’s debut feature. Starring Elisabeth Olson as Martha, the film traces her character’s escape from a cult and subsequent attempt to integrate back into her family. But are the cult members coming after her? Durkin’s film, which recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, gradually builds tension, culminating in a taut ending which will frustrate some viewers but is absolutely perfect. Here is a quote from my recent conversation with Durkin.

Sean, you’ve described this film being somewhat inspired by Rosemary’s Baby and Robert Altman’s Three Women. To what extent do you look at this as a horror film? Three Women is very creepy.

Three Women very much in the sense that it’s an experience. It’s not horror but it’s so unsettled and you just go on the journey of these women talking to each other and no one is listening to each other, and the feel of that film really settled on me.

“But I love horror films and I hate when horror films get gory. I love the build-up so I think that very much like that, very much in the desire to portray that, very much settled in my subconscious at some point of my life and just ends up making its way into all the films I make.”

 

Martha Marcy May Marlene opens in limited release Oct. 21.

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