You Are Not Alone Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Sharp Teeth Films
Directed by Derek Mungor
Written by Derek Mungor and Chris O' Brien
2014, 97 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 22nd February 2016
Krista Dzialoszynski as Natalie
David O' Brien as Garrett
Mary Mikva as Nana
Keenan Camp as Miles Davis
Found footage horror films: what’s the appeal? Bearing in mind that I am generalising rather wildly here, they look like shit, all tell exactly the same story, tend to be populated entirely by assholes, and all end with someone being dragged away into the darkness, screaming hysterically (generalising, remember). And yet, for all of the subgenre’s (many, many) inherent flaws, there’s no denying a sense of purity. It’s the closest thing one can get to being right there in the midst of the action, witnessing it all firsthand. Until now, that is! Enter You Are Not Alone, the first person horror movie.
It’s Project X by way of Peep Show and Halloween – a first person slasher movie which commits admirably and entirely to its conceit, with not even a mirror or reflective piece of glass to let us see its heroine’s face. Not even the fantastic Maniac remake or Open Windows (not really POV, but close enough), from which this borrows a couple of tricks, took the idea to the extent it goes here. Not only is it a unique concept, but it also manages to inherently sidestep the whole ‘why the hell are they still filming?’ issue that has bugged me throughout every found footage movie ever made.
As a result, and with the goddamn camera out of the way, there’s a sense of (reverse) voyeurism to it that even the best horror movies struggle to achieve. Absolutely everything we see is through the eyes of recent graduate Natalie, returning to her small hometown on the 4th of July to visit friends and family while taking in the local fireworks and drunk people. It’s here where the film is at its hardest to like or enjoy, being but a series of staggeringly dull conversations and encounters with deeply irritating people. I zoned out at the Pineapple Express-esque weed dealer and didn’t return to the plot until after the party had finished. Given the title, it’s ironic how hard the film is to watch whenever Natalie is, in fact, not alone (killer of the piece not withstanding). Its horror game is excellent, but getting there is a long, hard slog.
Once the film hits its stride, however, there’s no looking back, and You Are Not Alone rarely misses a step. By necessity, its story is simple, Natalie being under attack from a mysterious figure, determined to get into her home and under her skin. Literally, with a knife. There’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but rarely have we seen it done quite like this – it’s like found footage, only not (like watching someone play Alien: Isolation). Neither she nor the killer are particularly well fleshed out – she’s a victim, he likes to toy with his prey and cut off faces – but again, that’s a necessity. She’s a passive heroine, making all of the wrong decisions and getting herself punched and run over a lot – a Mary Sue who exists only to be abused and terrified (like reading Fifty Shades of Grey).
Half boring and annoying, half tense and visceral, You Are Not Alone functions much better as an experience than it does a piece of storytelling, making the most of its gimmick and ideas. It’s a gimmick that could get old fast if it caught on, but as the only one of its kind, You Are Not Alone is… well, it’s the only one of its kind. Cue the Peep Show soundtrack.