If Darren Aronofsky's broken ballerina thriller "Black Swan" launches a new wave of art-house horror flicks, it would be fine with me. It's one of the creepiest films to garner serious Oscar consideration since "The Silence of the Lambs."

If Darren Aronofsky's broken ballerina thriller "Black Swan" launches a new wave of art-house horror flicks, it would be fine with me. It's one of the creepiest films to garner serious Oscar consideration since "The Silence of the Lambs."

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a meek little lamb in the competitive world of New York ballet. She has talent, but her director (Vincent Cassel) doubts her willingness to lose herself in her performance.

Nina lives with an overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), a former ballerina living vicariously through her daughter. When a new rival (Mila Kunis) emerges in the ballet company, it brings out a dark side that Nina's quiet exterior barely hints at.

Aronofsky ("The Wrestler," "Requiem for a Dream") has constructed a dark masterpiece here. "Swan" is sweeping, sexy and psychologically disconcerting (in a good way).

The cast is sublime. Cassel oozes smarm from every pore. Hershey shows restraint in her wicked mother where a lesser actress would not. Kunis breathes a cool confidence that plays in contrast with Nina's insecurity.

But it's Portman's coming-out party. Watching her transformation is what makes the film crawl under your skin. And it's likely to lead to her holding an Oscar.

"Black Swan" is one of the year's best.