Tag Archives: Dora Madison

With or Without You

Alone with You

by Hope Madden

A surreal meditation on emotionally abusive relationships, Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks’s Alone with You brings eerie new meaning to lockdown.

Co-writer/co-director Bennett also stars as Charlie, a woman eagerly waiting for her lover Simone (Emma Myles) to return from a trip. It’s their first anniversary and Charlie would like it to be special.

What transpires never has two people in the same room, is set almost exclusively in one apartment, utilizes multiple device screens, and somehow pulls it off as not a Covid necessity but an effective way to create tension.

As Simone is later and later, Charlie finds herself stuck in the apartment. Literally stuck – the door is jammed. And though she’s able to raise her mother (Barbara Crampton) and her best friend (Dora Madison), neither will really follow the conversation and help her out.

Bizarre noises, missing objects, and creepy goings on all build a potent sense of foreboding. The allure of the film is this tension and the way Brooks and Bennett weave in surreal flourishes to give the piece a macabre quality.

But the reason it works as well as it does is because Alone with You becomes a cagey allegory. The film taps the horror of unhealthy relationships, but it also works that nerve of being trapped in the damn house—as we all have been.

In much the same way Sean King O’Grady’s We Need to Do Something picked that Covid scab with a family stuck in a bathroom together, Alone with You recalls the almost desperate desire to get out.

Each actor on screen does a credible job of interacting with tech. This can be a tough sell, but Bennett and the small cast all make it work. Crampton is a particular joy as Charlie’s judgy mom. She veers from nitpicky to loving to critical to nightmarish in the span of a single, beautifully crafted scene.

Even at a slight 83 minutes, though, Alone with You feels a little bloated. But the mystery at work binds with a horrifying sense of familiarity to manufacture enough scares to keep you guessing.

Portrait of the Artist


by Hope Madden

What does true art require of its maker? It’s an incredibly common theme in film (and books and sculpture and painting and any other kind of art) because, for an artist, it’s a common point of introspection. Why am I doing this, why aren’t I better than this, what would I give to be really great?

There’s such an underlying element of the diabolical and desperate in these questions that it’s only sensible so many horror flicks have sprung from this well. From Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood in ’59 to Sean Byrne’s Devil’s Candy in 2015, horror movies love to explore what we’re willing to become if only our art could be great.

Joe Begos returns to the concept with Bliss, an unrelenting attack on the senses that equates artistic obsession with addiction and monstrosity.

Frenetically paced and entirely reliant on Dora Madison’s impressive performance, Bliss works like a hypnotic pulse. Madison plays artist and malcontent Dezzy, who opens the film dodging her landlord, tooling LA in her convertible caddy and panicking. She can’t finish her latest piece, her agent wants to drop her, she’s about to lose her exhibit space.

Why isn’t her dealer answering the goddamn phone?

When she does catch up with him, he has something potent for her. She goes a little overboard and by the time she’s semi-conscious again, a house party is in full rage, the drugs, beat and sexy look from an old friend propelling Dezzy into a hypnotic night of excess and debauchery. But somewhere in the stew and slurry of the night, her painting starts to take shape.

It’s intriguing that the more minor the character, the more likable the performance. Begos seems not to want you to care about the lead or those closest to her, and that’s always an intriguing approach to a film.

The only real problem with Bliss is its lack of originality, but that’s a pretty big problem. Quick cuts and quicker tempo, nimble performances and concussive beat, like Gaspar Noe’s Climax, Bliss leaves you feeling worn out. But with little new to say, it mainly leaves you feeling more hung over than entertained.