SYNOPSIS: Malin Akerman and Chris Messina star in the twisted journey of two women’s desperate flee to escape the clutches of Skylight, an insidious cult. Lured in by the promise of “freedom” in the isolated desert campus called “The Aviary”, Jillian (Akerman) and Blair (Lorenzo Izzo) join forces to escape in hopes of real freedom. Consumed by fear and paranoia, they can’t shake the feeling that they are being followed by the cult’s leader, Seth (Messina), a man as seductive as he is controlling. The more distance the pair gains from the cult, the more Seth holds control of their minds. With supplies dwindling and their senses failing, Jillian and Blair are faced with a horrifying question: how do you run from an enemy who lives inside your head?
Two women attempt to escape a cult by hiking through the desert. When plans go awry, deception, confusion, and brainwashing pit them against one another.
While we only see Chris Messina as cult leader Seth in brief moments, they are undoubtedly impactful. With his calm yet persuasive demeanor, it is easy to see why these characters fell under his spell from the very beginning. Lorenza Izzo plays Blair with unbridled, vibrating energy that is captivating. You clock every single beat in her eyes. Malin Akerman‘s confidence as Jillian makes her a perfect foil for Izzo. Akerman walks a fine line between vulnerable and secretive. She’s frighteningly good.
The screenplay’s wordplay, score, and scene blocking heightened every moment. There was never a dull moment. The endless mindfuckery rubbed my nerves raw. I found I had left fingernail impressions on my palms without realizing it. The paranoia and tension in the dialogue had my head spinning. Are these women gaslighting one another, is one of them a villain and is this even real? These are some of the questions I had while sorting through the madness that is The Aviary.
You cannot ignore the comparisons with Scientology and Rajneeshees. The final 20 minutes had me on the edge of my seat. If you think you know where this story is going, think again. The Aviary is a whirlwind of manipulative tactics. It’s fantastic.
In Theaters, on Digital, and On Demand April 29, 2022
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Chris Cullari & Jennifer Raite
STARRING: Malin Akerman, Lorenza Izzo, Chris Messina, Sandrine Holt
RUN TIME: 96 minutes
RATING: Rated R for language and some violent content.
OPENING THEATERS INCLUDE:
NEW YORK CITY – Cinema Village
LOS ANGELES – Lumiere Cinema
ATLANTA – Studio Movie Grill Marietta
CLEVELAND – Atlas Diamond Center
DETROIT – Emagine Royal Oak
HOUSTON – Studio Movie Grill Pearland
MINNEAPOLIS – Emagine Eagan
ORLANDO – Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
PHILADELPHIA – Westown Movies
TAMPA – Studio Movie Grill Seminole