Thursday, 7 August 2014

DVD Review: YOU ARE NOT ALONE (2010) Directed by Mark Ezra

You Are Not Alone, 101 Films
It's very easy to groan when faced with yet another found footage film, but thankfully, You Are Not Alone (previously known as House Swap) manages to be absorbing enough to overcome the shortcomings and annoyances of the format. 
As one would expect from the original title, our main characters, Matt (Nathan Nolan) and Ginny (Evie Brodie/Bicker) have swapped their luxurious Los Angeles home with a British couple, in order for them both to draw inspiration for the work; Matt being a writer and Ginny a musician. With the book that he's writing being about King Arthur, it's only natural they choose to swap for a house near Glastonbury in Somerset. The place is a gorgeous, sprawling, if a little untidy, mansion. It is full of wood panelled walls, creaky stairs, and a resident stalker who won't leave them alone.
A very simple premise that works really well at building tension and despite stretching credibility a tad when Matt (and later Ginny) insists on picking the camcorder up whenever they hear a noise, the result is mostly a success.
From the very early scenes there's a presence in their videos which they don't seem to notice (it's very clear to the viewer though, almost to the point of obviousness), and although this is a tired trick to spook the audience, some of the occurrences work rather well, and there are some genuine scares. It succeeds in preying on that perfectly normal fear of your home - or holiday home - privacy and safely being violated. That sense is always heightened in a strange place, and the film manages to tap into that almost straight away without resorting to using clich├ęd stereotypes of we don't like outsider-type villagers.There's also a cinematic taboo broken when the pair discover a rogue bowel movement on the downstairs toilet floor. Yuk, indeed.
Aside from the moody and tense interior scenes, we do get some lovely views around Glastonbury, particularly the famous Tor, which dominates the skyline.
The villain of the piece, despite being given a little back-story, is never really fleshed out as it keeps strictly to the found footage formula, and the brief glimpses we get are merely of a hooded man.
Additional cameras are set up around the house as surveillance, which at least allows for a different perspective to the events. While deftly made by director Mark Ezra (one of the writer/directors behind the '80s slasher classic Slaughter High), the familiarity of the formula prevents it going that extra step into being fully immersive. Who knows how effective it would have been as a more conventional narrative feature with a full, atmospheric score to compliment the shocks and moody visuals. 
Note that although the packaging states the film is rated 18, the BBFC website has the certificate as 15, so don't go expecting anything too extreme in it, other than bad language and anxiety/fear. There's little or no gore, just well-handled scares - and that's not a bad thing. 
It appears the film has been gathering dust since it was made in 2010, and one can't help but feel it would have gone down better had it come out then, rather than after years of the same type of film essentially stealing its thunder. As mentioned, it's a notch above the usual attempt at the format, with some genuinely effective shocks and a brooding, gripping atmosphere; certainly worth checking out.

7 out of 10

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