Maybe found footage isn’t entirely accurate, as it’s more of a straight first-person flick than found footage (and technically speaking the film made its very limited debut in 2014 before officially arriving in a wider release this summer), but it has the look and feel of a found footage piece, and it definitely leaves an impact on viewers. In a year that gifted us a few late-year sub-genre treats, You Are Not Alone got lost in the fold. It shouldn’t have. It’s far from a flawless film, but it is a creepy affair that feels relatively unique. It’s got the feel of a solid little summertime slasher, with a home invasion twist and a villain to fear.
It’s all about young, bright college graduate, Natalie, who returns to her home town for some 4th of July festivities. But those festivities are harshly interrupted when a maniac pops up and begins randomly attacking locals. It sounds familiar, and it feels familiar, but it has just enough creativity to pass as something somewhat new. It’s been a year loaded with found footage and home invasion films, so standing out isn’t an easy feat, but the picture really manages to do so. The villain, who rocks a creepy ass mask, dances some awkward little jigs and shows zero mercy, is absolutely superb. You’ll need to apply a little suspension of disbelief to fully climb on board with the flick’s concept – it isn’t easy to imagine a random psychopath storming through a small community killing anyone in his path with little resistance – but if you can apply that SOD, you’re in for a well-paced little film that’s all but been forgotten just six months after it’s official US release.
Why have we forgotten this one? That’s a good question, and I think the only answer that holds any weight is because we received a few truly mesmerizing pictures in 2016. It’s probably a bit of a challenge to keep yourself on the annual radar when movies like Green Room, Hush, Don’t Breathe and The Witch keep the horror world gushing ceaselessly. Those are all genuinely awesome films, and it’s hard to be mad at the praise they’ve received since arrival, but it’s important to remember the impressive, even if not perfect pictures that landed in our laps in the earlier portions of the year. This film more than fits the bill.
There isn’t much in the way of big screen flash here, but it isn’t needed. You Are Not Alone is a sometimes grimy affair and it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to feel as though we’ve fallen into susceptible small town America, and the flick really gets that right. Riding bikes down lightly populated suburban streets feels comforting, and that comfort is quickly shattered. And that’s the theme of the film, established comfort, completely obliterated. It’s fun. It’s often intense. Again, it isn’t perfect, but I think there’s a lot to enjoy here if you’re looking for some straight-forward chills.
I made note that the picture can be a bit grimy, but interestingly enough, some of its finest moments are actually extremely beautiful. Between the vision of director and co-editor Derek Mungor and his editing partner, Lucas Seibel, we get some gorgeous visuals. But those visuals don’t operate alone, they’re accompanied by a captivating soundtrack, which, when coupled with the often fantastical imagery comes together to create a mesmerizing experience. The first two thirds of most films of similar ilk work slowly to introduce characters and conflict, and this is typically the dullest aspect of found footage. But this particular piece is so stunning that even the most mundane of moments commands some respect. If you can’t stand any downtime in a film whatsoever, you may have some issues working through the introductions of the films characters, but if interesting personalities and organic performances float your boat, you’re going to be shocked by what you get from this piece. This may be a relatively green gang, but they’re refined beyond what their résumés may indicate.
2016 is over in a matter of miutes, but we’re going to remember a lot of features that have been released this year. Respect and enjoy, but also look beyond the marquee titles floating about and dig into a few of the unheralded indies out there, like You Are Not Alone – you might be really surprised by what you get.