I haven’t really watched Mad Men, so actress Elisabeth Moss is kind of a revelation to me. If you haven’t seen her in the miniseries Top of the Lake, directed by Jane Campion, I suggest you do so, because it’s totally brilliant, and so is she. In The Attic, a younger Moss portrays Emma, the increasingly delusional protagonist in a rural-goth take on Polanski’s Repulsion. Wait, did I say delusional? Perhaps she’s just a curious insect that’s wandered into the wrong fly trap.
Emma lives in a house near the woods. Her father (John Savage) and mother (Catherine Mary Stewart; who could ever forget the classic Night of the Comet?) are hopeful that she’ll finally want to go college, but Emma prefers to traipse around the house in her nightie or explore the creepy attic with her developmentally disabled brother Frankie (Tom Malloy, who also wrote the script). A psychiatrist (Thomas Jay Ryan) is called in by the parents, but Emma proves to be a patient with more layers than a blooming onion.
Moss is riveting as Emma, an unmoored girl in the wrong place at the wrong time. Is she going insane? Has she been possessed by a malevolent house spirit? Are Mom and Dad conspiring against her? Like Rover with a new soup bone, you’ll be chewing on the possibilities for a while. That said, The Attic is by no means perfect: Director Mary Lambert (Pet Semetary, lots of Madonna videos) definitely built this one to be a slow burner—rich in atmospheric dread but with the action (and bloodletting) more strategically rationed.