For the News-Democrat:
What It's About: Two documentary filmmakers (Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius) infiltrate a cult to expose their leader as a con, but is she? Maggie, an ethereal beauty, claims to be a time traveler from the future, precisely 2054. This mysterious woman is both mesmerizing and menacing, with an uncanny ability to tap into people's vulnerability, drawing out their beliefs, secrets and private thoughts.
Setting: San Fernando Valley
Performances: Brit Marling, an indie darling who also starred in "Another Earth" as well as this sci-fi movie that premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, is hypnotic as Maggie. She co-wrote the screenplay with the director, and is one to watch. The filmmakers, Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius, are believable as a couple, first united and then struggling to cope in an unfamiliar environment. The danger escalates effectively.
What Works: You never know if Maggie's a fraud or the real deal, so it's both fascinating and frustrating. Director has approached this low-key, with a normal location hiding this underworld -- a cult in a Southern California basement is certainly a novel premise. The story takes center stage, without any whiz-bang special effects.
What Doesn't Work: The build-up is more satisfying than the payoff when the secrets unravel. I really don't like watching people vomit on screen -- could do away with all scenes involving hurling. She makes all the new people toss their cookies for purity. Ugh.
Rating: 3 stars out of 4
Starring: Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, and Brit Marling
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Rated: R for language including some sexual references and brief drug use.