By Anthony Breznican
Updated January 22, 2011 at 07:32 PM EST

Image Credit: Will Hart Image Credit: Jody Lee LipesThe answer out of Sundance is hell yeah. Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of the famous twins, made her indie movie breakthrough at the festival with two intense films –the cult-escape drama Martha Marcy May Marlene (pictured bottom left) and the creepy psychological thriller Silent House (pictured top left)and while her last name is associated with the countless goofy, little-girl movies made by Mary-Kate and Ashley, neither one is what you’d call “family friendly.” (Unless you’re the Manson family.)

That’s especially true of Martha Marcy May Marlene, in which the 21-year-old Olsen stars as a young woman who escapes a disturbing, violent cult run by a smooth-talking psychopath (Winter’s Bone‘s John Hawkes). The title refers to the different names she is given in the cult — part of the strategy to destabilize her psyche — and the film is split between her efforts to return to normal life while living with her sister and flashbacks to her early days of indoctrination and the shocking acts she witnessed.

UPDATE: Martha Marcy May Marlene was picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight.

While the movie goes to extremes, Olsen says it was rooted in real experiences of people who had been in abusive cults, including a friend of Martha Marcy filmmaker Sean Durkin. “It’s not this fictitious exaggerated thing,” Olsen said, after the premiere screening. “I know a few people who, when I was talking about doing this movie, were like, ‘My parents were in a cult, and I was born in a cult, and then we ran away.’ It’s not this crazy, outlandish idea. It’s actually rooted in something that’s real, that’s taboo.”

What’s ironic is her two movies are sort of … twins. In Silent House, her character is another terrorized young woman, harboring frightening secrets, and fighting to escape an overwhelming terror. Both women spend a lot of time running, crying, and gasping for breath as they flee their respective horrors.

Just as Jennifer Lawrence broke out at last year’s Sundance festival as a fresh, young actress with intimidating talent, and Carey Mulligan did the year before, Olsen is considered one of the big discoveries this time around.

No one thinks she looks like her famous sisters, however. She is much more frequently compared to Maggie Gyllenhaal or Vera Farmiga.

Guess the billionaire, iconic twins should get used to being asked, “Are you Lizzie’s sister?”

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