Alone with Her (2004) is a surprisingly effective glimpse into the mind of a pathological stalker named Doug (Colin Hanks), and the effects his singular obsessions have on a totally innocent woman named Amy (newcomer Ana Claudia Talancon). It's to first time writer/director Eric Nicholas' credit that the psychosis of a stalker isn't really gender specific, even though one sees how morbid male voyeurism progresses from random shots at a topless beach towards up-skirt footage, and leads towards Doug installing a complete remote surveillance system in Amy's home.
The fact secretive spy technology exists isn't the big shock; it's how easy it can be abused to service one person's ill-bent fantasies, and Nicholas' pre-production research included statistics (hence the chilling pre-main titles quotation), and access to real stalker videos seized by the police, which give the film's first act a disturbing verite.
What's important about the film's first act is the extensive montage that follows Doug's installation of multiple camera throughout the house. Every conceivable vulnerability is captured onscreen, and moments of nudity are very unsettling, but equally potent is Doug's staged, manipulative tactics he uses to enter Amy's life, becoming her new friend, and at times punishing her when she's not behaving like the idyllic creature he's corralled on his hard drive.
As a portrait and chronology of repulsive behaviour, Alone succeeds superbly until Amy's girlfriend Jen (Jordana Spiro) is easily and conveniently disposed of, and then it's just a gradual downhill slide into a more predictable thriller, with a finale that owes a fair deal to John Fowles' The Collector. That's not necessarily a negative thing, but both Jen's demise and neither her nor Amy's initial suspicion that Doug may be tied to a wealth of Am's bad luck creates a lull wherein Amy's trust in Doug drags on before the two characters collide and battle it out in an apartment building either inhabited by utterly deaf neighbours, or built with the best soundproofing material on earth.
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Colin Hank's performance takes some warming up – he's too mannered and his rage fugues are cliched in the opening act – but Talancon carries the film with a completely natural performance, and dialogue that's unpretentious. Another boost to the drama's verisimilitude is Nicholas' deliberate visual design that mimics crappy pinhole cameras and awkwardly composed surveillance cameras, the the use of score is pretty much dialed down to subtle ambient washes, masking any actual score cues in the film's decent Dolby sound mix.
The DVD extras include an excellent commentary track by Nicholas, wherein the writer/director covers the film's genesis and his attempts to disturb and provoke rather that titillate viewers. There's also several deleted scenes playable with an optional audio commentary from Nicholas, and among short scene bits are a longer opening sequence, and an alternate finale that would've stopped the film cold with its abruptness.
Among the crop of voyeuristic thrillers made in the past few years, Alone with Her easily ranks as one of the best.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan