For decades, horror classics seemed to mirror the stereotypical horror fans. Usually cishet white men who drooled over femme fatales, overbearing bullies and nerdy inferiors getting slashed by a menacing murderer or supernatural presence.
Since then, the audience for horror is getting a makeover. Fans of every background love horror and now diverse creators are bringing representation and inclusion to the genre in new and exciting ways. In October 2021, a unique little gem premiered at Screamfest. Starring Emily Bennett, who also co-wrote and co-directed the script along with Justin Brooks, Alone With You chronicles the horrors of domestic bliss between Charlie (Emily Bennett) and her girlfriend Simone (Emma Myles).
On the night of their third anniversary, Charlie prepares a romantic evening and waits for her girlfriend Simone to get back from a trip. As the night goes on, we see Charlie’s world begin to fall apart. Her apartment is dark even though it’s still afternoon. Her mother is equal parts dismissive and antagonizing and Charlie has literally lost track of time. As the story unfolds, we learn that things might not be as idyllic as they seem in Charlie’s world and underneath the surface lies a terrifying story.
I had a chance to sit down with Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks to talk about the film.
This was a quarantine movie. Tell me about how that inspired the story and the way you produced it.
Emily Bennett: We knew we wanted to make a film that could be evergreen. And we wanted to create a story that encapsulated our anxiety, our loneliness, our fears, but without the overbearing presence of COVID. So we dove into this story of isolation and as we wrote we were immediately able to audition the dialogue and see how Charlie would develop. We outlined in May, wrote the script in June, and started shooting July 1st!
Wow! That’s quite the schedule! Tell me more about Charlie, was it always the idea for the lead to be a queer woman?
Justin Brooks: The film was based off a short film I’d written a while ago and actually with the intention of casting a friend of Emily’s who is male. But when we went through, nothing about the film or the character was inherently male or needed to be male. We kind of wanted to readjust and tell a different story with the same kind of setup. Also, we were in the middle of quarantine and maintaining a safe bubble was of the utmost importance.
EB: We kind of realized that this didn’t need to involve a male voice for a very distinct reason. And that’s why when you watch the film, you realize there’s not a single male voice heard throughout the entire thing. And that leaned into who we would be casting and what story we would be telling.
JB: And furthermore, the queer community is one that Emily and I are both very close to. We realize that there is a sense of isolation that’s felt in that community that’s not seen. In a straight couple, you don’t grow up with the same kind of mircoaggressions that those within the queer community have to deal with day to day and further that sense of isolation. So that was an important part of the story.
I love that you brought words to that. I really felt like Alone With You is a female story and one of the things that really works is that Charlie is so sympathetic. You really root for her because she’s so real and I think that’s why the ending and reveals throughout are so effective. Now please tell me everything about getting to work with icon and horror legend Barbara Crampton!
EB: Oh my gosh it was a dream! My first response was ‘she’s not going to do this’, like, no way! Justin grew up watching Barbara and she’s like an icon! So yeah, we obviously approached it like, let’s share the script with her, see what happens. We would be thrilled, but we weren’t holding our breath about it. Especially during the pandemic, everyone’s dealing with their own stuff. She got back to us, she accepted and said she wanted to do it, based on the strength of the first scene between Charlie and her mother.
I hear she was very involved and she shot her own scenes on Go Pros that you sent to her?
EB: It was such a surreal experience for me because not only am I her scene partner, but I’m directing remotely. When we were shooting her footage, we weren’t shooting my footage, so it was a complicated setup. She was amazing.
We have the two side characters of Mom and Thea. Thea kind of says the things Charlie wants to say, but doesn’t, and Mom kind of speaks to Charlie’s insecurities. Tell me more about these two.
JB: Thea was always our truth teller of sorts. She’s based on a Greek mythological character Thea, or “truth sayer”. The mother character was certainly there to show the cracks in the armor for sure. She wanted to kind of exploit her self conscious being and her path to who Charlie used to be or who Charlie thought she used to be.
EB: The relationships really make this film dynamic. It’s amazing performances and they’re very much two sides of the scale. They push her forward to continue her retreat just in different ways. I guess they are devils on the shoulder, I love them!
Tell me about the significance of the beach.
EB: Justin captures the beach so beautifully in the beginning. If you start watching this film, you’ll think it’s a love story. And it is a love story, just different kinds. The way Justin captures it is dreamlike and perfect. It’s the memories that we wanted, we wanted air and breadth before Charlie is just locked away in this prison of an apartment. We wanted this expanse of beauty.
JB: We also wanted to give her a space where the horizon seemed to disappear because we wanted her to have a place that felt endless. In her memory it’s a safe place, and for us filmmakers, that’s a fun thing to just destroy! [laughs] Just break hearts and show you’re not even safe in your fondest memory.
Alone With You is a fascinating and thrilling watch! It will be in theaters Friday, February 4th and On Demand, Digital and DVD on Tuesday, February 8th.
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