Last Call

You need to watch the best cult thriller on HBO Max ASAP

Martha Marcy May Marlene leaves HBO Max at the end of January. Here's why it's worth a watch — especially if you're enjoying WandaVision.

Elizabeth Olson finds herself in a mysterious new community, seemingly held against her will. That's the premise of Marvel's new streaming series, WandaVision, but it's also the plot of an underrated indie classic from 2011.

Eddy LEMAISTRE/Corbis Entertainment/Getty Images

Directed by Sean Durkin (right), Martha Marcy May Marlene uses a non-chronological format to explore how a young woman is taken into a cult and how those traumatic experiences stay with her after she's escaped.

The movie begins when Martha escapes from the cult. She soon moves in with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy), who live in an opulent lake house.

But Martha struggles with her trauma, and a series of flashbacks reveal why. She was brainwashed and even raped (consider this a trigger warning) by the cult's leader Patrick (John Hawkes).

It's easy to see why Martha and so many other women fall for Patrick. He's charming and handsome (in a gaunt hipster sort of way). At one point, we watch him sing a song for Marth for two full minutes in front of the entire cult. The camera rarely leaves Olsen's face as she oscillates between awe and embarrassment.

Click here to watch the full scene on YouTube.

Don't expect a happy ending from Martha Marcy May Marlene. This isn't a Marvel movie where things end neatly or set up the next sequel (that's what WandaVision is for). But if you're looking for a complex film that will challenge you, you can do a lot worse.

Share