Writer-director Eric Nicholas employs a film-school gimmick in Alone with Her, but it's an effective and ingenious one. The low-budget thriller is presented entirely from the perspective of hidden cameras that a stalker uses to observe the object of his obsession.
The story couldn't be simpler. Doug (Colin Hanks) is a bespectacled, pasty-faced recluse who gets his jollies shooting furtive video of pretty girls around Los Angeles. Then he comes across Amy (Ana Claudia Talancón), an attractive, single twentysomething. Doug is smitten.
And so he does what any red-blooded American boy would do. He breaks into Amy's apartment and blankets the place with hidden cameras and microphones he uses to monitor her every movement.
He watches her constantly: eating, sleeping, showering, masturbating. Nicholas doesn't make it easy for the audience, tweaking the inherent voyeurism of cinema by daring us to be titillated. Doug quickly collects information about Amy's tastes in movies and music -- knowledge that comes in handy when he "accidentally" bumps into her at a coffeehouse.
Alone with Her wisely keeps things bare-boned. Doug is an ingratiating, socially awkward dweeb -- we even have a pang or two of sympathy for the poor guy -- but Nicholas ratchets up the tension with clinical precision. When another suitor takes Amy out on a date, Doug explodes with rage. He sabotages the budding romance by tainting Amy's food and spreading a skin irritant over her bed sheets.
Tightly paced and relentlessly unsettling, Alone with Her is a solid thriller that knows how to goose viewers. By foisting the stalker's point of view upon the audience, Nicholas dares us to identify with the creep even as we empathize with the decidedly normal Amy. Both Hanks and Talancón are tremendous with restrained, naturalistic performances.
By design, the 1.85:1 widescreen image has the look of amateur video quality. The picture is often a little grainy and noisy, but these imperfections contribute to the movie's disturbing vibe.
There isn't much creative use of the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix, but it does the job fine. The audio is clear and consistent in volume. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Nicholas' commentary is casual, informative and interesting -- if a little self-satisfied (I'm not sure that this movie has enjoyed enough of a wide release for the director to refer to its "infamous masturbation scene").
Four deleted/alternative scenes combine for a four-minute, 17-second running time. The scenes, which include a lame alternate ending, can be viewed separately or via "play all," and with optional commentary by the writer-director.
Also included are stalker facts and a TV spot.
Alone with Her is nifty proof of what a filmmaker can accomplish with a compelling premise and some style. Eric Nicholas fashions an unsettling and creepy thriller with a bit of inventive spit 'n' polish.