With You (V)

Desecrated cemeteries, missing bodies, a decaying and reportedly haunted mansion, disembodied voices, embalming fluid found in places its not meant to be. Poor Jim Polk (Joe O’Rourke) thought he was getting away from it all when he quit the corporate grind to rent part of a farmhouse a friend of his had told him about. The peaceful little burg of Mount Prospect, where Jim’s friend Sloan (Mike Pish) owns an ice cream parlor and Jim works at the local hardware store for Mr. Klein (Fred Schutz) is the last place Jim expected to run into ghost stories. But the farmhouse Jim has rented looks directly out upon the eerie, decaying ruins of Moloch Manor and local lore says Old Amon Moloch still haunts the place and occasionally even comes into Mount Pleasant to wreak a little terror. Naturally, city-bred Jim scoffs at all that nonsense even though Sloan and Mr. Klein, being Mount Prospect natives, are a little nervous about Jim’s bravado.

Soon enough though, strange things start occurring to Jim as well as to the local cemetery. A bird flies into Jim’s front door, killing itself, while a huge crow seems to follow Jim around. Mr. Mercant (Laurence Skorniak), the owner and primary caretaker of Pine Cemetery, starts seeing graves half-erupted from the ground and, when Jim and Sloan stop by to see what’s going on, they are warned that, “Things are stirring again!” Jim has a massive spider infestation in his house which the exterminator can’t explain and he keeps hearing voices from the (empty) other half of the duplex/farmhouse. Mysterious noises awaken him at night and ominous knockings are heard at Jim’s front door at all hours. Then there’s the creepy hearse that appears from time to time, according to local legend heralding the arrival Old Amon.

As weirdness escalates, Jim starts to take the local legends seriously but hasn’t a clue as to how to deal with them and the man who has information which could shed some light on Jim’s peril can’t get the information to him. Sloan tries to assist and ends up in the hospital but by then, all bets are off. “With You” is very Hitchcockian in its growing sense of dread – you KNOW something very bad is going to happen but when is left for the viewer to grow more and more anxious about. And all the subtle, eerie incidents which increasingly beset Jim just inject further unease – is all of this really happening to Jim or is the stress of his previous life catching up with him?

“With You” was filmed in 9 days with ONE camera in northern Illinois with a cast of unknowns but it is one of the most original ghost stories I have seen in a while. For one thing, the protagonist is a man – no women in their nightgowns investigating a noise in a dark room. Another interesting side of “With You” is its ambiguity – several reviewers have, like I, compared it to Hitchcock while others have seen it as being similar to “The Sixth Sense” or “Phantasm”. Aside from the slow reveal Hitchcock did so brilliantly, I think “With You” is unique all on its own. The ending horrified me – I did NOT see it coming, even after checking out other reviews and the movie’s website, http://www.withyoumovie.com/splash.html. Being a low-budget indie, the acting is uneven but O’Rourke and Pish give believable performances as old college buddies. The cinematography by Michael Valdez makes excellent use of the rural landscape and the score and sound design by Ted Pedersen are creepy and almost organic at times – the use of wind in horror movies is SO effective for me. And Moloch Manor, the decaying old mansion, is one of the creepier houses of horror I’ve seen in recent films.

I hope Anchor Bay or Lionsgate pick up this little gem as no one seems to make good truly scary ghost stories anymore. “With You” harkens back to films like Robert Wise’s “The Haunting” or Peter Medak’s “The Changeling” where it’s what you think you see that freaks you out so much. And sorry gorehounds, there is very little to be seen in “With You” but when you do see it, the circumstances are unforgettable.

Official Score