Directed by: Emily Bennett, Justin Brooks
Written by: Emily Bennett, Justin Brooks
Starring: Emily Bennett, Barbara Crampton, Dora Madison, Emma Myles, Meghan Lane
Grimmfest Film Review by: Darren Tilby
Lockdown has been hard on everyone. But, while the vast majority of us were stuffing our faces and piling on the pounds (months spent sat idle in total boredom), contemplating how much we miss doing even the most mundane of things, some creatives were making the best of a bad situation and finding workarounds to the restrictions imposed by Covid. A flurry of (mainly) indy films popped up, many featuring a small cast and intimate setting, with other cast members often appearing through the magic of video calls and zoom meetings (see 2020’s Host as a prime example of this), allowing for filmmakers to continue their work safely. Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks’ Alone With You is just the latest in a line of cinematic horror works to adopt this formula—and it’s a damn good one.
Emily Bennett takes the starring role of Charlie, a young woman who, after returning home from work, sets about preparing a romantic anniversary meal for her soon-to-return-home girlfriend (Emma Myles), who has spent some time working away. Almost immediately, Charlie is plagued by strange occurrences in her flat: lights flicker, weird noises are heard, shadows move in the background, doors lock themselves, and something seems intent on isolating Charlie from the outside world. Trapped in her apartment, with only friend Thea (Dora Madison) and her overbearing religious mother – a remarkable turn from Barbara Crampton – popping up via video call for the occasional (often less-than-helpful) chat, Charlie begins to question her very reality.
Alone With You makes excellent use of its intimate setting: what begins as cosy and welcoming soon gives in to a claustrophobic atmosphere of psychological torment. Indeed, there are some very effective scares here. The scares start as understated and creepy (figures moving in the background, voices in the air, that sort of thing) before gradually becoming more and more assaultive as the film goes on. The sense of terror and frustration is sold by Bennett’s superb central performance, which flitters between abject terror and a ferocity that betrays the truth of her character. At the same time, some outstanding camerawork, which seemingly stalks our heroine at every turn, peeking from around corners and through doorways, and moving through the apartment, draws us fully into this excellent horror experience.
Looking now at its weaknesses: the story isn’t a particularly original one, and it’s a slow affair, and I think it’s safe to say there’s a slight deficit of scares here—there could have been, and perhaps should have been, more. I also feel that the last act was a little drawn out in places and ultimately seemed unnecessarily long. These are niggling complaints, however, and pale in comparison to what the filmmakers do get right.
All said and done, Alone With You offers nothing significant enough to shake up the horror genre. But what it does offer is a story that is well told, a film of technical brilliance (especially in its cinematography), and a highly effective, horror-inflected meditation of grief and guilt. And while it might not be revolutionary, it’s undoubtedly one of the better films of its type.