J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

FGBFF ’18: Lyle

You probably always suspected Brooklyn hipsters were evil. This film proves it. Unfortunately for Leah, it will do so by placing her and her unborn daughter in dire jeopardy—assuming she isn’t actually going crazy instead in Stewart Thorndike’s Lyle (trailer here), which screens as part of the 2018 Final Girls Berlin Film Festival.

Despite some reservations, Leah agreed to move into Brooklyn with her wife June and their toddler daughter Lyle. Obviously, that was her first mistake. For some reason, she is never comfortable in the BKLN brownstone. She assumes it is the creepy property manager, who seems to have some kind of unhealthy Munchausen pregnancy thing going on. Of course, her unease gets even worse after tragedy strikes. Rather conveniently, she is already pregnant with a spare, but she becomes even more alarmed when she learns the macabre history of the building.

Thorndike (she played one of the models in Eyes Wide Shut) takes mucho inspiration from a classic horror movie that shall remain nameless, but she gives the common premise several original twists. Reportedly, during production, Lyle nearly became a web-series before switching back to a feature. The indecision was probably due to the betwixt-and-between running time of just over one hour. However, it is nice to see a filmmaker create something so potent within such a manageable time-frame. It is also quite remarkable how she maintains a consistent tone and a steadily building sense of dread. Polanski is referenced six ways from Sunday, yet somehow the end product is very much itself and rather terrifying.

It seems like Gaby Hoffman has made a specialty of annoying hipster characters designed to alienated well-adjusted viewers, so the visceral power of her work here will surprise many. She falls apart spectacularly, in what might be her best screen performance to date. Ingrid Jungermann and Kim Allen nicely establish the two extreme poles in her imploding world: her increasingly distant partner June and her concerned supermodel neighbor Taylor (only in Brooklyn).

Lyle is much scarier than you will anticipate, especially since experienced horror fans will assume they know exactly where it is going. Credit is due to Thorndike, who already displays a skillful command of horror movie mechanics. Highly recommended, Lyle screens with the short Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix at this year’s Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, showcasing horror hand-crafted by women filmmakers.

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