Entombed With an EVIL Loneliness. “Alone With You” reviewed! (Dark Star Pictures / DVD)

“Alone With You” on DVD at Amazon.com

Charlene anxiously awaits the return of girlfriend Simone who has been away on a photoshoot.  Today is their anniversary and Charlene wants everything to be perfect by creating a lovely evening together for just the two of them in their New York City apartment.  As the night progresses and still no sign of Simone, despite her flight landing hours ago, Charlene begins to worry but her phone suddenly malfunctions and her apartment front door jams, locking her inside with no way out.  To make matters worse, the outside is blacked out from something covering her widow to where no light can penetrate and she can’t see anything exterior.  Throughout the night, voices and shadows slowly surround her, dark silhouettes stand motionless in her storage basement and outside her jammed door, and the video calls with her mom and friends turn to an unnerving end as it seems Simone nor anybody else is coming to recuse her.  Intermittent flashbacks of her at the beach and a neighboring voice are her only company that menacingly mess with Charlene’s mind as she quickly realize that something is terribly wrong. 

If you’re looking for a compact, close-quartered, psychological barrel of scutter apprehension and fear, I wholeheartedly believe filmmakers Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks have what you need to inject that tar black cathartic dread right into your emotionally hungry veins with their latest film “Alone With You.”  Born and bred out of strict COVID times, “Alone With You” is the 2020 filmed mind-torturing, hell in a cell shot inside Emily Bennett’s NYC apartment during most of the shoot, using telecommunication technology to invite other actors into the spatial bubble and interact with the main lead without physically being on set.  We’ve seen a ton of other COVID-created content over the past two years, but “Alone With You” definitely shines as not only isolating madness but also a fear of disconnect in reality, mental struggles over brittle relationships, and an illusionary life stemmed out of disenchanting circumstances.  “Alone With You” is written and directed by Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks as their first feature film and is produced by “Underworld:  Awakening” actor Theo James and Andrew D. Corkin of the 2019 created production label, Untapped.

With a small indie feature film during pandemic pandemonium, the odds the cast and crew are downsized, probably meagerly paid, and limited by the pandemic-stricken environment and lack of funds.  “Alone With You” is just that film because at the principle lead is none other than Emily Bennett, one of half of the directing duo.  Bennett, who has a solid acting career with even a role alongside “The Devil’s Rejects’” Bill Moseley in the “House of the Witchdoctor,” gets cozy in her own two story apartment that suddenly becomes an ensnarement of unveiling and disturbing truth.  Bennett hits every level of descension without an immediate belief that something isn’t right with her surroundings.  Charlene takes multiple gradual hits of paranormal punches and Bennett executes her fear with great poise without any lopsidedness to give away too much too early that can sometimes kill momentum before the spookiness starts to really get good.  Through flashbacks and video calls, other actors interject moments of levity, different sides of tension, and, frankly, break up the Bennett monotony and from those brief moments, we get a sense of who Charlene is and a slither piece of her backstory.  The amazingly talented “Bliss” and “VFW” actress, Dora Madison, plays Charlene’s inebriated-uncouth friend Thea over a cell phone video call, zooming in is Charlene’s rightwing mother played by the ever versatile and extremely lovely Barbara Crampton, and, lastly, Emma Myles, in an unrecognizable role in contrast of a greasy haired addict and former Amish turned inmate performance in “Orange is the New Black,” is the always beyond arm’s length away love interest Simone.

What I like most of about “Alone With You” is the atmospherics of being in your safe, cozy place that has instantly turned in a prison of peripheral moving shadows, an invasion of privacy, and, most frighteningly of all with most millennials, none of the modern technology is working properly.  The story design feels extremely pushed toward a wash, rinse, and repeat cycle with no other areas in the apartment to explore other than the handful of main rooms and so we’re constantly in the bedroom, then living room, then front door, then basement, and then repeat for most of the 1 hour and 22 minute runtime but do you know what happens with that?  Bennett and Brooks strategize and outline the snowball of bad feelings inside the ominous compact, starting small and working up to a cacophony of madness to where Charlene is literally moving back and forth between truth and deception induced by being scared to shivers of her own apartment’s clad and taken for granted discomforts, such as the front door sometimes being stuck or the crying lady neighbor who you can hear clearly through the air register.  “Alone With You” fiddles with the theme of disconnection.  Here you have Charlene, a small town girl who moves into the big city, has discovered her sexuality, and has found a vocation that suits her to which all this change go against her mother’s approval, and she feels strongly attached, like an extension of herself, to girlfriend Simone and as the story progresses, we get the sense that not everything is lovey-dovey between the two and Charlene’s dependent world is slowly being severed.  Simple, yet effective, “Alone With You” is an undoing nightmare of personal happiness, a sentiment we all share and relate to during height of the pandemic.   

Now, we all suffer in Charlene’s insufferable loneliness and disconnection with the “Alone With You” DVD home video courtesy of Dark Star Pictures. The region 1, dual layer DVD is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio of standard 480p resolution definition, but the DVD image renders nicely on screen with digital sharpness unaffected by any compression issues, especially with much of the space saving special effects coming in practical and mostly done in the editing room. The video calls vary in quality which is pleasantly dispersed to the appropriate electronic devise, i.e. television, phone, etc. Details are clearly there but only slightly softer around the edged delineation. Two audio tracks are available with an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 and a stereo 2.0, but the 5.1 track is an allocating alicorn for a low-budget DVD. Shawn Guffy and Nicole Pettigrew’s sound design is meticulously on point and on cue with every synchronous audio nudge to point Charlene in the right direction for another round of dread. The varying levels of the Phil Mossman’s soundtrack adds a blended flavor of melancholy and fear. Dialogue output renders clearly and cleanly with no issues. English SDH subtitles are available. DVD comes stocked with special features including a blooper reel, a bit of a waste of space on the deleted scene reel that doesn’t add much to either the character or story, a lengthy and in-depth filmmaker and cast interviews, a behind-the-scenes featurette of Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks remarking on the struggles of feature filming around their apartment during COVID spikes, and a director commentary with the duo. “Alone With You” has a heavy artsy side to it that can leave viewers wandering for answers but if pieced together, if paying close enough attention, the correlation between the story in the camera and the life behind the camera are really not terrifyingly different. One just happens to be more of a representation hyperbolized with terror of a crashing down reality than the other.

“Alone With You” on DVD at Amazon.com

The Evil Dr. Is in! House of the Witchdoctor Review!

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Who doesn’t love Bill Moseley? The loud mouth, sarcastic-trash talking, balls-to-the-fucking-wall, maniac characters swirl him into a familiar role that have been overly typecast by general audience standards, yet we, as the audience, love every minute Moseley is on screen – Otis Firefly from Rob Zombie’s “The Devil’s Rejects” for instance. Hell even Johnny from Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead” gave Johnny a more twisted outlook on his short lived life. The same maniacal Moseley archetype reveals itself once again in House of the Witchdoctor along side a timeless buxom blonde and reoccurring co-cast member Leslie Easterbrook.
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A young and beautiful Leslie Van Hooten and her four grad-study friends retreat to the Van Hooten home to help Leslie cope with the anniversary of her fiance’s brutal and shocking death one year ago. Peter (Bill Moseley) and Irene (Leslie Easterbrook) Van Hooten leave the family home for the weekend, giving the young group a chance to give Leslie a feeling of peace and relaxation during her time of suffering. However, a peaceful weekend is interrupted by a career criminal Cliff (played by Allan Kayser) and his drug fueled sidekick Buzz as they break into the Van Hooten home looking to rape and torture the women and steal from Leslie rich parents. What Cliff and Buzz don’t realize is that they have unleashed hell upon themselves breaking into a house that isn’t all quaint and innocent as it seems.
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“House of the Witchdoctor” prides itself more toward the torture, rape, and murder that falls upon the young grad students than more toward the actual focus of what the title suggest – the Casa de El Witchdoctor. And while I enjoy a good torture scene between dirty old criminals and the naive youth of the nation, the witchdoctor intrigued me more because the subject matter of voodoo and witchdoctors are hardly explored anymore. “The Serpent and the Rainbow,” “American Horror Story” Season 3, and, well the “Candyman” trilogy, is all I can really account for voodooism. Aside from the lack of witchdoctor and witchdoctor activities, the misbehaving activities of Cliff and Buzz are quite enjoyable as their rampage is non-stop, their carnage reaping is continuities, and their true to their snake tongue speak. Buzz especially since this is actor’s David Willis feature film and his long, yet balding greasy hair and beer-belly gut attributes really play to Buzz’s low-life persona. Cliff is a bit of an enigma; coming from a religious home and being just release from prison, my first thought is that Cliff is a converted convict. The two minutes of his scenes are deceiving and you’re beliefs about Cliff will turn your head around so fast your neck might snap.
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Leslie (Callie Stephens) travels home with a group of stereotypical archetypes that are commonly used in horror films such as the sex-crazed best friend Regina (Emily Bennett), her jock boyfriend Tom (Danny Miller), their religiously prude friend Patty (Summer Bills) and the nerd wimp Thad (Jonathan Helvey). I’m surprised that wasn’t a token black actor who tossed around quick quips, but I guess you just can’t have it all. Surprisingly enough, all three lead actresses show their racks! Woohoo! That in itself makes up for the usage of common archetypes and yet those scenes were more-or-less gratuitous – some more than others. Character development could have been improved especially since Thad and Patty had some sort of weird relationship arrangement where they together, yet not on holding hand terms due to religious beliefs. In turn, their religion background, along with Cliff’s religious background, would have been a good contrast with the Haitian voodoo, but the mark was missed. Also, Regina and Tom couldn’t stop with the overzealousness of their hormones and so their development was skewed. Leslie had more going for her character in which she would reminisce alone about her murdered fiance, but this is confusing in later on scenes when the shit hits the witchdoctor’s fan. We’re more in tune with Buzz and Cliff’s characters than really anybody else’s. Even Leslie parents, Peter and Irene, are simplified characters who deserve more background. But like I said at the start of this review, Bill Moseley could bring any character life even a limp one.
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“House of the Witchdoctor” breaks the mold with a couple of good scumbags and will forever terrorize your dreams about being home alone. Also, a good amount of iconic cult star power doesn’t hurt and along side Moseley, Easterbrook, and Kayser are Dyanne Thorne (the ferociously buxom and nasty nazi Ilsa of the “Ilsa She Wolf of the SS”) and Howard Maurer (Also famed from an Ilsa film “Ilsa Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks). Breaking Glass Pictures plan to release “House of the Witchdoctor” on DVD on September 16th!