A young photographer and wife played by acclaimed star actor Maika Monroe is left alone late at night, when her doctor husband — played by “Stranger Things” favorite Joe Keery — goes to his overnight shift at the hospital.
But in the absence of her husband — and the emptiness and quiet of her apartment and home — she struggles with horrific paranoid visions of her latent anxieties and fears — visions which manifest physically and threaten her life, future and marriage.
Writer-director Kate Trefry, who also writes for Netflix television hit “Stranger Things,” offers a terrifically engaging and stylish horror short that mines one woman’s troubled interiority, bringing her internal visions of fear to life with impressive visual panache and flair. The short calls to mind a horror classic like Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion,” which also mined a troubled young woman’s inner life, charting its increasing destabilization through the surreal transformation of her physical space into a monstrous, vindictive presence.
But while Polanski’s horror classic was meditative,eerie and disturbing, this short also has a modern sense of fun, evoked by both its slick, shiny saturated colors and the wry voiceover of its main character, which displays a knowing self-awareness and a sense of irony about the expectations she faces. Trefry’s writing is fast-paced, wry and smart, and the story rolls forward with great energy, emphasized by nimble editing and dynamic camerawork. The result is a rollicking take on the horror movie, alive with the electric energy of a great, infectious pop song.
Lead actor Maika Monroe is well known for her breakthrough performance in the excellent horror film “It Follows,” and she brings her intelligence, emotional relatability and undeniable star screen presence to her character as a young wife often left alone to her own devices. She essays the role of a woman ambivalent about her role and place in life with great immediacy, offering a multi-layered performance that’s alive to the frightening surreality of her visions as well as her underlying fears — losing her creativity and facing the fact of starting a family — that’s fueling them.
“How to Be Alone” ends with a unforgettable, funny image that suggests that the couple has found a way to make fears co-exist with life’s reality. Vivid and engagingly dark, it also gives voice in a funny, wry, self-aware way to how enormous expectations and self-consciousness can reel out of control. Like many other great horror films, under the well-crafted chills, thrills and excitement it offers an emotional education in facing fears head-on and integrating them into one’s “daylight” life in a healthy way. In fact, we just may find a way to value — and befriend — them.