Review by Nina Romain ‘You are Not Alone’. Sharp Teeth Films, 2014, out on DVD 23 February. This slasher starts with a bizarrely calm 911 call from a woman who says she saw a strange man outside her house and ‘doesn’t know where he went’; then fades into panicky screaming.
Set in a sunshiny afternoon in smalltown Rhodes (real name Walnut) Illinois, where graduate Natalie Wilner (1st person played by Krista Dzialoszynski) is at the airport, home for the Fourth of July weekend. She’s waiting to be picked up by her pal, the good natured clown Garrett.
On the trip into town, Sunny Smalltown becomes slightly creepy as he cheerfully recounts a friend’s injury on his camping trip, reflecting the problems of having no cell phone coverage in the wilds. ‘This is how horror movies start’ he reflects, then heartlessly adds the accident was: ‘kinda thrilling’. This foreshadowing may be more thrills for both of them than they really want, in the next 24 hours.
There’s a soften-up opening of more peaceful homecoming as Garrett and Natalie take their pal into the woods to enjoy the summer sunset, buy dope from the local lovable eccentric, have a coffee in a diner with Natalie’s Nana, join a crowd to watch a firework display.
The trio head out to celebrate at a neighbour’s place, joining in party pranks such as throwing boiled eggs into cups, drunken singalongs, and switching IPhones to use Dutch rather than English instructions, to its owner’s drunken outrage (‘Who changed my phone to SPANISH?’).
Director and co-writer LA-resident Derek Mungor keeps the warning signs creeping up to disturb all this bluegrass bliss. There’s a curfew in place due to the recent attack, and missing children are announced at the fun family fireworks show. Finally, the heroine heads home alone, cheerily drunk, as thrown fireworks throwing ominous gold and red shadows along her dark road as she stumbles back.
Finally home, Natalie notices a male stranger standing outside as though waiting for her, bizarrely smart in a black suit. After spunkily threatening him with the police if he doesn’t leave, she grabs a fire iron and checks the house out to ensure the creepy intruder has gone. With no sign of him outside, she goes to bed reassured and dozes off. She gets a text that seems to be from Garrett….but isn’t.
During the ensuring chaos, Natalie runs into a neighbour’s house to seek help and finds a kid in bedroom and instructs him to lock himself in his room before rushing off. The viewer is left wondering, why didn’t she grabbed the kid and lock them both in his room, or into the bathroom to stay safe (the only room guaranteed to have a lock?).
This interesting first person slasher ensures the viewer never see any more of Natalie, the likeable, everyday Final Girl, than her hands clutching her IPhone, stirring coffee in the diner, eating pizza, looking for weapons. As things get worse, you see her mudstained green sneakers, and blood-stained knees, making it resemble a horror version of Peep Show, as much as it aims to echo slashers ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Town that Dreaded Sundown’.
The film does suffer from the usual serial-killer gaffes and clichés, as the killer actually has a evil, deep laugh, coupled with a nice line in creepy invective (‘I know you’re listening. Rise and shine…’). Another mystery never explained is how he knows either Natalie’s name or her number to terrorise her. Does it really seem plausible that he would chase his victim around the house while whistling creepily so his victim can tell exactly where he is? Also, why does the killer leave his knife with Natalie, not just within her reach but in fact on her leg, while he wonders off, leaving her time to grab the weapons and attack him? Why does she then drop the knife back down on the floor by him, so he now has it again?
‘Never Alone’ is as original as it wants to be, but maybe a little less frightening.
Horror version of ‘Peep Show’ – a mixture of besuited serial killers amid sunny bluegrass bliss
Nina Romain is living proof that small children shouldn’t be taken trick-or-treating in Alabama in the 1980s – they tend to end up obsessed with the creepier side of Halloween! Her horror shorts tend to be shot half in the seedier side of Los Angeles and half in the darker side of the UK. She’s spending this Halloween dressed as a creepy clown at various London horror events and planning to eat her own weight in festive treats. You can find her on www.girlfright.com and IMDB.