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"YOU WON'T BE ALONE"
(2022) (Anamaria Marinca, Sara Klimoska) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: A teen must contend with a witch turning her into a similar monster that kills and assumes the presence of their victims.
PLOT:

In a 19th century Macedonia mountain village, the tale of the Wolf-Eateress witch, Old Maria (ANAMARIA MARINCA), is known by one and all. That's especially true of mothers of newborns who are aware of her predilection for babies when not feeding on animals. Faced with that, one such mother pleas with Old Maria to spare her girl, and the witch agrees until the girl's teen years.

Kept isolated in a cave until then, Nevena (SARA KLIMOSKA) finally makes it out into the real world as a near-feral being. But it's not long before Old Maria turns her into a witch who, just like the old woman, can kill and assume the identity of other beings, be they animals or humans. As she transitions through various people and interacts with others, Nevena slowly learns what it means to be human.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

It wasn't until I started doing a little research on the lore of shapeshifters that I discovered how prevalent it was in legends, tales, and stories of old. Granted, I have no idea if people long ago might have actually believed in any of that.

I'm guessing they probably did, what with the belief in witches being so strong centuries ago that they held trials related to them. Then again, maybe it was simply a brilliant literary and/or manipulative device that someone invented and then caught on among others.

Whatever the case, it still exists in fiction to this day, albeit in less monstrous forms, such as Mystique in the "X-Men" movies to Camilo in last year's "Encanto." I guess it's appropriate then, that for a creepier version it's best to go back in time and that's what writer/director Goran Stolevski has done with the mesmerizing "You Won't Be Alone."

A film that works on many levels, it's also one that likely won't appeal to all modern-day horror fans, what with being more of the art house vein, complete with subtitles, voice-over narration, and an overall unusual vibe.

On its basic level, the flick revolves around the legend of Old Maria (Anamaria Marcina), a scarred, Freddy Krueger-esque figure that haunts the locals of a 19th-century Macedonian mountain village. Known as a Wolf Eateress, Old Maria has a penchant for shape-shifting along with a taste for animals and human newborns, and it's the latter that has a new mother worried about her recently arrived little girl.

So much so that when the witch arrives to reverse what the stork has just recently done, the mother pleads for a pass and Old Maria grants that, at least temporarily. Accordingly, the mother puts her child in some sort of holy cave and only occasionally stops by to bring food for the girl whose only exposure to the outside world is via a small hole in the cave ceiling that's too high to reach.

Eventually, Old Maria shows up to take what she deems is rightfully hers, and Nevena (Sara Klimoska) emerges into the world as a feral-type teen. She doesn't get much of a chance to explore her new environs before the witch turns her into one of her own, but the girl wants to be independent and thus breaks away, drawing Old Maria's ire.

And thus begins the teen's journey through what it means to be a human, experienced both as different ones -- male and female -- as well as the occasional animal, giving the character a trans aura that continues until the end credits roll. And with each transformation and subsequent observation through a new set of eyes -- and occasional loins -- she discovers that life indeed can be hard and brutal, but also beautiful.

Stolevski carries that theme into the visuals and direction, creating a hypnotic film that will likely stick with you for some time. I don't often say this, but I look forward to seeing it again to look for additional symbolism and such that I might have missed the first time around. Creepy, haunting, lyrical, and something to behold, "You Won't Be Alone" is just the latest example that those storytellers of old seem to have been onto something special. It rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed January 28, 2022 / Posted April 1, 2022


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