Ah, navigating the world of dating, such fun. What could be scarier than putting yourself out there? What if they don’t like you? What if you don’t like them? What if they’re an axe murderer? Well, you get the idea. You never know what you’re getting into when you leave your comfort zone. Sometimes, we are so wrapped up in our own insecurities that we’re not sure if we will ever find “the one.” These real-life elements can be the setup to some great romantic comedies or you know, scary movies. This is the situation rendered in Marc Cartwright’s recent short film, We Die Alone.
The film follows Aidan, played by Baker Chase Powell, a young, insecure 20-something, wallowing in loneliness and potential agoraphobia. Despite his desire to experience love more than anything, Aidan is a serial ghoster. He never shows up for the dates he schedules with women he meets on dating sites, preferring to have a fantasy date instead, where he tapes the woman’s picture to a mannequin torso (somebody has been watching Maniac). His only real friend, and unrequited crush, is his coworker, Elaine, played by “True Blood’s” Ashley Jones. Elaine continually encourages Aidan to put himself out there, unknowingly encouraging his habit.
The vicious cycle is broken, however, when Aidan meets his new neighbor across the hall, Chelsea, played by Samantha Boscarino. She’s beautiful, she’s mysterious, and she shares Aidan’s low-profile attitude toward social media and a love of puzzles. Most of all, she’s not looking for a relationship; so, they’re a match made in hipster heaven in Aidan’s eyes. Aidan is eager and ready to impress, but his single-minded newfound obsession can only end badly.
We Die Alone is a pretty decent character piece, bridging the gap between that shy guy at the beginning of the romantic comedy, and a timid but budding psychopath. Powell is a decent looking guy, and as Aiden, he demonstrates all of the traits of somebody you want to pity, but from the start, we feel a sense of dread. Seeing a mannequin in someone’s apartment is creepy enough. Seeing a mannequin with its face punched out is something altogether different, and is left to our imaginations. Props to production designer, John Garaguso, for this extra detail. Jones adds an infectiously cheery performance to her scenes, with a gleaming smile and a caring nature, reminding you of that one coworker who always made the shift bearable. Rounding out our leads, Boscarino adds an air of mystery to this new lady in red in Aidan’s world. She’s a little ditsy, but is composed and on guard. She’s clearly running from a history that she doesn’t want to repeat, but old habits die hard.
Presentation-wise, the film mainly ties us to Aidan’s small apartment, messy and lived in. You get the sense that he has been there for a while, but, as a visitor, you wouldn’t want to stay there for very long. The place is kept in almost perpetual darkness, illuminated by small lamps, creating a mood that borders between depressive and scary. We get a few other scenes in the breakroom at Aidan’s job, as well as a rather tense scene at the laundromat, but the entire apartment is the film’s standout.
We Die Alone is definitely a short film worth looking into. Marc Cartwright and co-writer, Cassie Keet, tackle a potential real-life horror story. Both of their perspectives make for a thrilling, yet grounded tale of loneliness and infatuation. In the wrong hands, such a narrative could feel one-sided, or worse, unintentionally funny. Not the case here. Couple this script with a tense score that never lets you forget who you’re rooting against, and a few surprises at the end that you’ll have to see for yourself, and you have a short worth investing your time into. Check it out, you may learn something about yourself.
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