In the tradition of the criminally underseen My Little Eye, indie effort Alone with Her tells its guy-meets-girl, guy-stalks-girl, guy-installs-cameras-all-over-girl’s-apartment, guy-manipulates-every-aspect-of-girl’s-life story entirely through surveillance equipment (or broadcast-quality digital cameras posing as surveillance equipment). It’s kind of a Fatal Attraction for the nannycam generation, and it gets under your skin in a way that few movies can.
Colin Hanks (Orange County, King Kong) plays Doug, a pasty and apparently unemployed voyeur who puts cameras in his gym bag and hits the streets to catch glimpses up girls’ skirts (the fact that the lens peeks out through a zipper and that the perspective is at crotch-level is a not-so-subtle comment about the nature of “looking”). When he spots Amy (Ana Claudia Talancón of Fast Food Nation and The Crime of Father Amaro) crying in a park with her dog, he is hooked, and quickly makes her his one and only focus.
Doug follows Amy everywhere, and soon enough breaks into her home and installs surveillance cameras throughout her apartment. Using the information he gathers through watching her at her most intimate moments, he slowly begins insinuating himself into her life (he “happens” to be carrying a video that she watched the night before under his arm when he stands in line with her at a coffee shop, leading her to spark up a conversation). He knows that Amy is getting over a bad breakup, is a frustrated artist, and has few friends. So she’s the perfect target (it also doesn’t hurt that she’s hot enough to melt glass).
Once they meet, things snowball steadily and sickeningly, with Doug causing chaos in Amy’s life and then swooping in to help at just the right moment, sabotaging her relationships, and even messing with her beloved pooch. The plausibility of the situation and the deadpan way that it’s delivered (aided tremendously by Talancón’s wonderfully natural performance) makes for a deeply disturbing experience, particularly since we are watching from Doug’s point of view. At least, until he himself enters the story, at which point we take over the controls entirely – and although this is a break in the initial concept you’d have to be a stickler to let it bother you, given the web that the film is able to weave with its limited means.
The setup is simple (there’s only a few locations and a handful of characters) and the execution brisk – the movie’s only 70 minutes and that’s more than enough to get the point across. By sidestepping the usual melodrama and bending the conventions of the thriller genre, writer/director Eric Nicholas is able to make what would otherwise be an unremarkable stalker story feel positively electric (or electronic?) in its immediacy. In fact, it’s so mundane and naturalistic that it makes you feel kind of dirty watching it – and the cumulative effect of the discomfort from feeling as though you’re participating in this girl’s unraveling is pretty intense.
If you’re a fan of small-scope relationship thrillers (this is Hard Candy without the pretty colors) or films that take some narrative risks by boxing themselves in with a concept, Alone with Her is sure to please. But if you’re easily disturbed or turned off by leering unpleasantness, you might be wise to sit this one out – it packs quite a wallop. I thought it was effective in conveying the message that there are very dangerous people out there, but I don’t know that I’d want to sit through this particular lesson again.