Directed By: Mark Ezra
Written By: Mark Ezra
Starring: Nathan Nolan, Evie Brodie, Simon Dutton, Louise Houghton, Seth Sinclair
UK Certification: 15*
Running Time: 84 minutes
Distributor: 101 Films
UK Release Date: 21st July 2014
I remember picking up the Arrow DVD release of Slaughter High back in the summer of 2011. As with most of their acquisitions it was a greatly anticipated release and on checking out the special features I had a look at Jesters and Jolts – a brief but informative chat conducted by Calum Waddell with co-director Mark Ezra. He seemed a genial guy, and as with any film I felt the compulsion to find out where his career took him following this infamous entry into the horror genre.
I discovered that Ezra scripted more than any other role – most notably the excellent crime thriller Riders (2002) which came to the UK as Steal and starred Stephen Dorff. Directorially he shot the little seen thriller Savage Hearts (1996) which has all but vanished from the public eye and also the independent horror picture House Swap (2010). The latter intrigued me at the time, and staggeringly three full years later and we are only just able to cast our eyes over this picture – complete with name change to You Are Not Alone – as it has finally received a home entertainment release.
Matt Powsey (Nolan) is a young Californian scriptwriter who in the hope of finding some creative inspiration decides to exchange the Echo Park home that he shares with composer girlfriend Ginny Baker (Brodie), for a very appealing Tudor mansion in the vicinity of Glastonbury, Somerset. The start of a film has the vibe of a video diary being made for friends as the couple scoff at those that doubted their move to the UK. Ginny takes the opportunity of a piece to camera to clarify what her motivation is in the new location, and as Matt films it he catches on camera a scuffle between a man and woman where the guy appears to lay a punch on his companion. Needless to say once this individual realises his act of brutality has been filmed, he hurtles towards our American couple, giving rise to the idea that all may not be at serene as the countryside of South-West England suggests.
Their new home is huge, and is also extremely lived-in with antique furniture, books, ornaments and curios littering the vast property that seems like a labyrinthine network of rooms. Night falls, and once more our loving young couple film a piece to camera with the backdrop of a log fire stating to the intended viewer how thrilled they are with this house swap. As the evening progresses though, Matt unknowingly leaves the camera rolling in a vacant room which happens to capture the sight of a hooded figure, armed with a knife about to steal money from his wallet. As we observe this, both Matt and Ginny are oblivious to the intruder – but their blissful ignorance is about to be shattered, and their stay in new accommodation is about to become an exercise in terror.
If you hadn’t guessed, You Are Not Alone is a found footage movie. I didn’t mention it straight away as I fear your eyes may have glazed over as you pined for a world where every other DTV release wasn’t shot in this format. However – trust me, there is life in the old dog yet, especially with a filmmaker of the experience of Ezra behind the camera… and writing the script… and producing… and editing… and doing the sound. Indeed, this is quite an accomplished solo performance.
Where this film succeeds is in its simplicity. Ezra doesn’t employ the use of complex over-elaborate scares, instead he resolutely sticks to straightforward tactics to scare the audience – a hooded figure, a slamming door, but more effectively the great use of sound which creates a palpable feeling of dread. In front of the camera the film is essentially a two-hander, both characters are developed well while Nolan and Brodie are able to elicit enough empathy from the viewer to make you genuinely care for their wellbeing.
When you contemplate the detritus that gets released into the UK home entertainment market each week, why it’s taken four years for this film to get an opportunity defies all known logic – especially considering the filmography of the director. You Are Not Alone is an uncomfortably creepy film that obviously was shot on a meagre budget, but in doing so it utilises its Somerset location with a determined vigour which results in a quite chilling piece of British horror filmmaking.
7 out of 10
*Film classified ‘15’ but package raised to an ‘18’ due to the presence of a trailer for Heretic