You Won’t Be Alone will hit theaters on April 1, 2022.
The Wolf-Eateress: her name alone conjures up grotesque imagery of a witch devouring animal carcasses for some nefarious ends. But what if it’s more complicated than that? In You Won’t Be Alone, it very much proves to be. Director Goran Stolevski finds a way to breathe new life into the age-old folk tales with his take on a fabled witch, one that forges a coming-of-age nightmare through a humane lens.
The horror movie tells the strange tale of Old Maid Maria, a witch who terrorizes a small village in 19th century Macedonia. A very mention of her keeps the kiddies in line with threats that this supernatural boogeyman will come for them in their sleep if they don’t behave. And that’s exactly what happens when Old Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca) claims a newborn.
It’s an interesting setup that sees the young child become the witch’s protégé when she returns, years later, for her prize. But in the meantime, Nevena (Sara Klimoska) has been locked away, kept “safe” within a sacred cave. Now, she knows nothing of the outside world. What follows is an exploration of humanity framed within an eastern European folk tale, one that evolves when she and her “witch-mama” have a close encounter with a local hunter, and Nevena’s curiosity gets the better of her. Nevena isn’t like her witch-mama – she wants more. She wants to know what it’s like to live a normal life.
The transformative magic at the heart of You Won’t Be Alone is visceral and horrific, with the witches literally taking a part of their victims to become them. A crow, a dog, a man, a woman – it doesn’t matter. They can become whatever they want to be, and with superb special effects, the transformation from one person to another looks painful and barbaric, and altogether gruesome.
Of course, that’s just the beginning, as Nevana becomes determined to create a life for herself without human society, as a chance encounter with a new mother (Noomi Rapace) sees the girl take on her form. Of course, Rapace is blinding as she takes over the leading role from Klimoska, embodying the awe-struck girl perfectly as she tries to fit in with those around her. There’s a weird kind of satisfaction in seeing the actress embody this character in exactly the same way that the character embodies others.
And this becomes the central concept of the film: Nevena seeing the world through others. It’s often emotionally draining, with the true horror not quite so visible. You Won’t Be Alone isn’t exactly scary – it presents more of a grinding existential dread as Nevena explores every facet of human emotion through the cadavers of those she has killed along the way.
You Won’t Be Alone forges a melancholy coming-of-age nightmare that touches on all aspects of humanity.
As always, horror provides an ideal medium for exploration of social issues. “It’s a burning, hurting thing, this world,” she remarks. Through her narration, we get the inner thoughts of this otherwise silent protagonist – observations about the harsh world she sees, and how she fits into it. Obviously, there’s ample opportunity for some cutting social commentary, so we watch in grim anticipation as Nevena claws her way through the length and breadth of humanity.
Klimoska adds a weary curiosity to the film’s first half, with Nevena’s naivete underpinning a wide-eyed performance. It’s not all stumbling around looking gobsmacked – she’s clearly struggling with her situation, and Klimoska walks a fine line between revulsion and curiosity at her own witchy powers. Likewise, this strangeness is embodied perfectly by Rapace, who takes over as Nevena’s first host. Rapace stands out as someone who takes on the young girl’s characteristics with ease, becoming the newfound witch with otherworldly ease.
As a debut feature, You Won’t Be Alone is a terrific start for Stolevski. He’s clearly one to watch, with a subtle understanding of what makes his cursed protagonist tick, not to mention a mastery of folk-horror tropes that create an exhausting world for her to traverse. He makes some bold choices, too, telling Old Maid Maria’s story cryptically through tales passed down from mother to child.
You Won’t Be Alone is a somber, cutting dissection of humanity wrapped up in horror-like folklore. The world-building by Stolevski is truly enthralling, creating an exhausting depiction of 19th century Macedonia that feels even more hostile than the witch who comes for you in the night. The unravelling tale of Old Maid Maria clinches it – the monsters of this world are not the witches after all, but the evil that men do. This twist on the genre breathes fresh life into what could have been a fairly average supernatural flick. Instead, You Won’t Be Alone is a beautiful deconstruction of humanity at its most vile.
Author: Alex Stedman. [Source Link (*), IGN All]