As movie releases were delayed and productions halted during the pandemic, filmmakers had to get creative to get their projects made. We saw some great example of innovation in movies, like Host, that embodied the spirit of DIY indie horror. At present, Emily Bennett isn’t a household name – she’s directed some short films and has a handful of acting credits. But here feature-length debut, Alone With You, is nearly a one-woman show. Bennett directs, shares writing credits, and she’s the primary star of her movie. To date, the handful of reviews have been mostly positive.
While she waits for her girlfriend to arrive home to their small downtown apartment, Charlie busily prepares a romantic evening dinner. As the day drags on, however, increasingly strange things happen. Day and night seem to blend and Charlie can’t get out of her apartment. Her video calls to friends and her mother become oddly distorted. And strange images creep out of corners. Is Charlie losing her mind or is there something else happening around her?
Alone With You Features Stretches a Thin Story Against an Atmospheric Backdrop
Co-writer and directors Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks deserve a lot of credit for getting a lot from their single setting and modest budget. While it’s never necessarily a ‘scary’ or suspenseful movie, Alone With You achieves a consistently haunting atmosphere from its opening minutes to its final scene. Bennett and Brooks do a good job of using shadows and the corners of the screen to make audiences feel as uneasy as Charlie. In addition, Alone with You steadily introduces strange happenings to ensure the sense of claustrophobia doesn’t turn into boredom. A distorted video chat and creepy neighbour crying through the apartment vents are eerie highlights. But Bennett and Brooks’ tip their hand early with Charlie’s surreal flashbacks and inability to focus on time.
While it’s never necessarily a ‘scary’ or suspenseful movie, Alone With You achieves a consistently haunting atmosphere from its opening minutes to its final scene.
Clearly, Alone with You is a pandemic-shot thriller where its largely single-setting is by necessity. By and large, Bennett and Brooks find enough clever ways to keep ‘Charlie’ trapped in her apartment that also organically contribute to the story’s mystery. But even with a trim runtime that clocks in at less than 90 minutes, the story stretches itself too thin. All the atmosphere in the world can’t hide a story that recalls other horror films rooted in isolation. Most viewers will also know where Bennett and Brooks are taking the story long before it arrives. While the chills consistently work, they begin to feel recycled. As a result of these narrative problems, Alone With You feels anti-climatic and underwhelming rather than profound.
Alone With You Finds Its Writer and Director Doing a Lot of Heavy Lifting
In addition to directing and writing, Emily Bennett gets in front of the camera to play ‘Charlie’. Given that Charlie is on screen for the movie’s entirety aside from brief appearances from a handful of characters, Bennett worked over time on this one. And she’s convincing as a woman insecure in her relationship and slowly unraveling under mounting pressure. There’s a sad desperation always bubbling under the surface that Bennett exudes, which is both a positive and negative. On one hand, the performance is strong enough to carry a movie that often feels like a stage production. Yet it also further eliminates other story options making the ending feel inevitable. You never really doubt where the movie wants to go.
Given that Charlie is on screen for the movie’s entirety aside from brief appearances from a handful of characters, Bennett worked over time on this one.
Aside from Bennett, it’s a thin supporting cast that doesn’t have much to do. Emma Myles from Orange is the New Black shows up in flashbacks as the object of Charlie’s affections. But the role is small and Myles gets little opportunity to make much of an impression. Longtime horror fans will be happy to see genre veteran Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Jakob’s Wife, Superhost). While it’s also a small role, Crampton gets a couple of memorable scenes and delivers one of the movie’s more unsettling moments.
Alone With You a Creepy Thriller That Falls Short of Potential
Alone With You boasts plenty of creepy style and the kind of innovation recalls the best of DIY indie horror. What’s missing is a satisfying payoff to a story horror fans have previously seen. Unless you haven’t watched many horror movies or thrillers, Bennett and Brooks’ finale feels like a foregone conclusion. And the buildup to that conclusion never feels like more than build up. There’s plenty of talent and potential on display but the end result still feels underwhelming.