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August 06, 2014


lyle 1.jpg

Stewart Thorndike - 2014

I wouldn't be surprised if the ghost of Ira Levin comes to haunt Stewart Thorndike, demanding credit for his part in inspiring Lyle. Anyone who has read Levin's novel, or, more likely, seen Roman Polanski's film, can not avoid seeing similarities, especially near the end - a point of view shot of several people looming over mother-to-be Leah in Thorndike's film virtually duplicates a similar shot done from the point of view of Rosemary.

Unlike Levin's story, with a struggling actor and his wife getting a Manhattan apartment that in reality they could never afford, Thorndike has her youngish lesbian couple move into a vintage apartment in Brooklyn under mysterious circumstances. The couple, Leah and June, have a toddler, a girl named Lyle. Leah is also pregnant with a second child, another girl. Like almost all toddlers, Lyle is inquisitive, wandering around the apartment, causing Leah concern when she's nowhere to be seen. And when Leah is having an online conversation, Lyle finds her way to a front window, with fatal consequences.

There is also the strange apartment manager, a single woman "of a certain age" who feels the need to pretend she is pregnant, and the young woman upstairs, said to be a model. Leah does some online investigations regarding her home which further distress her, with the stuff of urban legends. Then there is Lyle's small toy horse which seems to disappear and reappear mysteriously. Like most intelligent horror movies, nothing is obvious or explained in detail, at least until the end.

While the story might be dismissed as a retread, what makes Lyle of interest are Thorndike's visual choices. At one point, there is a shot of the front of the apartment, with June and Leah framed by a window on the right third of the screen. In another scene, June and Leah are in bed, but we only see their arms in the shot. Thorndike also plays with focus, allowing one scene to be played out as an almost abstract image. The solo piano score by Jason Falkner is stark and effective, Amazingly, Thorndike shot her film in only five days.

Lyle can be seen online for free, coinciding with Thorndike's Kickstarter campaign to fund her new feature, Putney. Lyle is also the first of three proposed horror films, indicating a dedication to genre filmmaking that has increasingly interested a younger generation of female filmmakers. For any squeamish souls out there, the horror aspects are only suggested, not seen.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 6, 2014 07:18 AM