[Salem Horror Fest] ALONE WITH YOU Review – A Warped Reality that Cuts Very Deep
Dylyn C.S. calls Alone with You a horror of queer heartache and delirium and an elegant exploration of painful self-reflection.
The 2021 Salem Horror Fest delivered a wealth of queer horror films including Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks' merciless mind-bender Alone with You, a queer psychological horror film bound in wildflowers. Dread and anxiety build slowly as the story follows make-up artist Charlie anticipating her girlfriend Simone’s arrival home from a photography assignment. Excited to spend their anniversary together, Charlie waits ad nauseam for Simone to come home only to be left alone in their desolate apartment.
“Alone,” however, may be a grave misnomer for Charlie as gut-churning sounds begin to fill their home. Worse still, Charlie discovers she is locked inside with no promise of help. Echoing the despondence of Mulholland Drive (2001), the film explores the horror of queer heartache and delirium. Its elegant exploration of painful self-reflection leaves the audience feeling gutted and strangely “seen.”
The film stars Bennett as Charlie, whose horror short Bed (2020) also appeared in the festival's virtual line-up. Additionally, Emma Myles portrays Charlie’s elusive camera-wielding girlfriend Simone with Dora Madison as the couple’s mutual “friend” Thea. Much to the delight and surprise of viewers, horror icon Barbara Crampton makes an appearance in the film as well, portraying Charlie’s virulently Christian mother. Haunting the screen with her venomous performance, Crampton’s scenes made Alone with You one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen in a long time.
While the film is both Bennett and Brooks' first feature-length production, both cumulatively and individually, it’s safe to say each has secured a lifelong admirer. With its enthralling set and sound design, imaginative cinematography, and nightmarish atmosphere, Alone with You masterfully twists the confines of space and time. It's reminiscent of other surreal films like 1408 (2007), YellowBrickRoad (2010), and Scenic Route (2013).
It also mirrors the claustrophobic dread in the video game Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)—the experience is cruelly immersive, especially without that grounding element of control. Dissimilar to the grittiness of the game, however, the atmosphere strikes a chord of unease through high art and a delicate bouquet of wildflowers. As in one of my favorite novels, House of Leaves (2000) by Mark Z. Danielewski, there’s an uncanniness that hopelessly replaces the traditional haven of home.
Alone with You, left the most resonant mark of all the films on me. As a queer fan of both spatial and auditory horror, I’m rarely so spoiled as to have all of my horror genre prayers answered in a single film experience. The way in which the film examined the inexplicable nature of hard emotions was starkly relatable even amidst the warped reality. While the film felt a bit slower-paced at times and was occasionally difficult to comprehend, it cut very deep, especially given my own often-complicated feelings. In the endless quest for more queer horror, I'm grateful to have found this imaginative stroke of genius.
Alone with You is now streaming on Shudder.