dir. Emily Bennett & Justin Brooks
Horror can lift our spirits, bring us joy and help us escape reality: but it’s also a genre that can devastate, punch audiences in the gut and expose the darkness that exists. This is where Alone With You hits, a film opening with lightness and hope before giving way to an aching sadness.
Charlie (co-director Emily Bennett) sits alone in her apartment, excitedly awaiting the return of girlfriend Simone. But the longer she waits, the more things seem to go awry, starting with spilt wine and tense video calls with her mother (played by genre icon Barbara Crampton) before sinister voices, knocks and other sounds start plaguing our protagonist.
It’s a remarkable achievement for Bennett, who spends much of the narrative alone on screen (the “you” of the title perhaps referring to the audience), keeping audience attention throughout with a tonne of emotional heavy-lifting. She and co-director Justin Brooks also keep the narrative grounded, preventing it from being undercut by an excess of stylistic quirks.
Whilst the second act feels a bit baggy and overstretched, once the film reveals what’s actually going on it becomes all the more powerful and compelling: no spoilers, but the finale may leave you needing a stiff drink and a moment to yourself. There are similarities to Knocking (also found on the festival circuit this year), though together they show the diverging paths creatives can take with a similar set-up. The result may leave audiences shattered, but Alone With You is the horror genre at its most striking, and wrenchingly sad.