In "Martha Marcy May Marlene," writer-director Sean Durkin follows in the tradition of "Repulsion" and "Black Swan" with a low-key thriller crafted from the perspective of a young, unstable woman.

In "Martha Marcy May Marlene," writer-director Sean Durkin follows in the tradition of "Repulsion" and "Black Swan" with a low-key thriller crafted from the perspective of a young, unstable woman.

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins) flees from a commune in the Catskills to the swanky Connecticut lake house of her older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson). Their stiff conversations betray the several years the sisters have been out of touch, and they hint at a troubled family past. Martha's actions in Lucy's home - jumpiness, overly blunt questions, inappropriate nudity in front of Lucy's husband (Hugh Dancy) - offer signs of the trouble she's recently escaped.

Her previous life at the commune, under the thumb of wiry, charismatic cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes, in Manson territory), comes through in flashbacks of indoctrination and victimization that mesh seamlessly with the present. They project Martha's sense of dislocation, as well as her lingering attraction to the cult and her snowballing fear that Patrick isn't finished with her yet.

While Durkin's flowing non-linear narrative effectively keeps the viewer off balance, Olsen's performance sucks you into Martha's story. There's a lost look in her large eyes, like a deer caught in headlights, that'll leave you equally transfixed.