First time feature director Stewart Thorndike establishes a fair amount of dread in his new horror film, "Lyle." Starring Gaby Hoffman, the film centers on a lesbian couple - Leah (Hoffman) and June (Ingrid Jungermann) - who are moving into a Brooklyn Brownstone with their toddler, Lyle. But the inhabitants of the apartment complex all seem a bit strange, including the apartment manager Karen (Rebecca Street), who likes to pretend she's pregnant even though she's almost sixty years old. There's also the smoking model (Kim Allen) who stands outside looking up into their window.
Their lives seem status quo at first with June working by day while Leah stays home with their kid and gets the apartment ready for baby number two. But all is not right. When Leah is told no children have lived in the building before, she soon uncovers baby wallpaper that suggests that, indeed, there was a child in their apartment at one time. Also, little Lyle seems to be talking to strangers that no one else can see. All of these creepy revelations lead to tragedy and -- well -- it all goes downhill from there.
To be fair, "Lyle" is a standard horror/thriller in many respects. It steals a bit from a well-known horror classic, yet it gives it a nice spin in the end. But for most of the short 65 minute running time, you kind of know where it's all going.
Thorndike and cinematographer Grant Greenberg do a nice job of establishing anxiety and the use of sound heightens this. There is definitely talent here led by the terrific Hoffman, who has certainly leapt back into acting with six features coming out this year alone as well as a recurring role on HBO's "Girls." She's great, and the mood of the piece is tangible. It's not the most shocking or original horror piece in years, but it does herald the arrival of a compelling new director.
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