Starring Gaby Hoffmann, Ingrid Jungermann, Rebecca Street, Kim Allen, Michael Che, Ashlie Atkinson
Written and directed by Stewart Thorndike
The synopsis for Lyle describes it as an ode to Rosemary’s Baby, and upon viewing one certainly sees that is the case. But Lyle takes a very different approach to telling the story of a group of individuals determined to capture a newborn child for heinous purposes.
Lyle stars Gaby Hoffmann as Leah and Ingrid Jungermann as June, a lesbian couple with a young daughter, Lyle, in search of an apartment in New York City. And although somewhat disturbed by an off-kilter landlady, the couple settles into a comfortable dwelling to raise Lyle and the new baby which Leah is carrying. Things immediately go bad in this one-hour horror story that gives the viewer very little breathing room as it makes very good use of every minute of that hour.
Hoffmann’s Leah carries the film as her partner is almost constantly away at a recording studio working on an increasingly successful music career. Without giving away too much of the story, simply know that a life-altering tragedy occurs and Leah’s mental well-being is crushed along with the picturesque life she and June were building. Determined to discover just what is truly tormenting her life and how deep the web of deceit goes, Leah turns to researching her new apartment and her strange landlady and begins to put the pieces together. But is the puzzle truly an evil plot, or is it Leah’s fragile psyche playing tricks on her? All the truths are revealed as Lyle speeds to a rather satisfying, if somewhat open-ended, climax that fits the story nicely.
Hoffmann is impressive. Her Leah is severely troubled but obviously trying to hold on to whatever grip she has on reality. Hoffman delivers a convincing performance that really makes the film work, highlighted by one very intense mental breakdown that is the standout scene for the movie. Jungermann does a nice job as well playing the grounded June who is trying to balance professional success with an unstable private life. And Rebecca Street is great as Karen Trapp, the quirky and unsettling landlady who has to be more than she appears.
Writer-director Stewart Thorndike weaves an unsettling story and gets the most out of all the players in the film. In addition to that, she includes a simple, but incredibly effective musical score that nicely enhances the eerie feel of Lyle. As far as effects, there are basically none; this is a very good example of how smartly built tension is all you need to create an effective horror movie. Thorndike’s tension-laden style in Lyle is reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby, gradually building suspense until one final shocking scene.
Although you won’t leave this movie quaking in your boots, Lyle does a nice job keeping you uncomfortable and questioning just what is amiss and who is involved at 757 Clarkson Street, where the film takes place. An impressive performance by Hoffmann supported by suitable co-stars make Thorndike’s film come to life in quite an effective manner. This isn’t one for the gorehounds, but if you like a chilling story that will make you think, Lyle is certainly one to check out. And if you’re interested, the film is currently streaming for free at LyleMovie.com.
7 1/2 out of 5