Contains mild spoilers.
I was checking out Hulu’s A-Z list in the horror section to see what all they had this Halloween, and Lyle, one of my favorite queer horror films, was there on the list! I first saw Lyle back in 2014 when director Stewart Thorndike released her film for free for a month online. (Thanks for the tip, Autostraddle!)
I’ve been waiting and thinking about it for two years(!), so when I saw it on Hulu’s list and I started yelling a little; my partner and I watched it right away.
Lyle is a queer take on Rosemary’s Baby: June (Ingrid Jungermann), a music producer, her partner Leah (Gaby Hoffman) and their toddler Lyle view a gorgeous Victorian apartment after moving to New York City for June’s career–although the landlady Karen (Rebecca Street) rubs her the wrong way. When Lyle dies under mysterious circumstances, Leah begins to suspect Karen and June of foul play.
Thorndike told Tribeca Film,
But when I made Lyle I didn’t realize there were so few women making horror films. Also, when I first thought of the idea for Lyle, I thought it would be interesting to make a genre film with a lesbian couple, where the story wasn’t about how hard it is to be gay. I really wanted that. So there are a number of things about Lyle that made it a little different, a little harder to fund, but I think there’s an audience for it.
I love how creepy and atmospheric Lyle is. The costumes, colors, and sets are as realistic as they are atmospheric. I was especially fond of the colors in the apartment set; C loved all of Leah’s ’60s/’70s retro maternity wear, a throwback to Rosemary’s Baby. The dialogue feels so natural, and the acting is fantastic, never campy–even the toddler playing Lyle is perfect. The blocking of the scenes and the camera angles, especially the tight focus on faces, the long shots with empty space, and lack of camera focus in some scenes, tie it all together. I was really surprised, too, how dense the film seems–it’s only 65 minutes long but every minute feels so full. And the ending!
My only criticism of the movie is that it could have included more people of color (of six named characters, only one is non-white). Hopefully Thorndike will address that in her next film, Putney, about a haunted TED talk.
Run, don’t walk, to see Lyle.
Content warnings (includes spoilers):
Does not contain queerphobia! Hooray!
Contains gaslighting, partner abuse, discussion of child death, creepy apartment, pregnancy, emotionally traumatic labor/childbirth, creepy neighbors, femme abuse