We Die Alone is an award-winning 2020 horror short film from filmmaker Marc Cartwright. The film made its debut at the Oscar-qualifying LA Shorts film festival, and went on to rack up numerous awards at festivals such as Shriekfest, FilmQuest, and the Nightmares Film Fest. We Die Alone will be released on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 21st 2020, and on ALTER sometime around Halloween.
The film focuses on Aiden (Baker Chase Powell – Dolemite Is My Name, 2013’s Hi-8), a shy, awkward young man suffering from debilitating insecurity, crippling social anxiety, and absolutely zero self esteem. When not toiling his life away at his thrift store job, Aiden spends his evenings alone in his small cluttered apartment chatting with women on dating sites. Pretending to be more outgoing, fun, and well… normal than he actually is, he never finds the inner-strength and confidence to actually show up for the dates.
The only friend that Aiden seems to have, if you can even truly call it a true “friendship”, is Elaine (Ashley Jones – The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful), a co-worker at the thrift shop. Despite being somewhat older than he, Elaine is really quite attractive and truly cares for Aiden, presumably much more so than he realizes. While it could be more evident that she is fishing for his attention on multiple occasions, Aiden is so wrapped up in his own loneliness that he never notices that she is “baiting his pond”, so to speak.
Instead, the closest that Aiden ever allows himself to get to having a female companion is by taping photos of the faces of the women that he has stood up onto a broken and battered old mannequin, and then carrying out a pretend version of the date from the safety of his small table. Even then, he’s still quite awkward and uncomfortable. However, things will soon take a turn for Aiden, although not necessarily for the better.
On one particular evening, there is a knock at Aiden’s apartment door. He opens it to find a young woman. The woman, Chelsea (Samantha Boscarino -Nickelodeon’s How To Rock, The Cheerleader Murders), is a new neighbor who has locked herself out of her apartment. Seeking help, Chelsea is invited into the apartment, while Aiden attempts to call the apartment manager to come let her in. The two exchange some brief conversation, but upon learning that they share a few minor similarities, Aiden begins to believe that they have made a “connection”.
For Aiden, this perceived “connection” leads him to not only repeatedly looking for the woman through the peephole of his apartment door, but also following her to a nearby laundromat, where he secretly watches her through the windows. He even goes so far as to retrieve a piece of lingerie that Chelsea drops as she leaves, taking it back home for his mannequin to wear.
Eventually, Aiden finally summons the courage to ask his new neighbor over for dinner. To be fair, he only accomplishes this feat by placing a note on the woman’s door, asking her to give him a call. That said, he does ask her to come over once she does return his call. In preparation for his “date”, he asks Elaine to cover his shift, claiming that he is ill. He also finally cleans up his apartment, and himself as well. However, is this evening truly a “date” or has he deluded himself into believing that the moment is more than it actually is?
We Die Alone spends the majority of its runtime (rightfully) developing its central character, slowly exposing not only the depths of loneliness to which Aiden has allowed himself to sink, but also showcasing just how utterly pathetic his life has become. Sorry, but I have zero sympathy for folks like that. In time, the film also exposes Aiden’s neurosis, as well as his psychosis, leaving the audience (minus my cold, uncaring ass) to question just how sympathetic they should feel for this troubled young man.
While there is some violence to be found in We Die Alone, the film’s “true” horror may not lie in a person’s ability to become unhinged, but in the way that some folks spend their lives afraid to take a chance, afraid to believe in themselves, and afraid to fail. Ultimately, We Die Alone focuses a spotlight on the fear that haunts so many every single day: the fear that they are truly alone in this world.
We Die Alone features some fairly strong performances from its small cast, particularly from Baker Chase Powell. There are moments in the film when Aiden’s mental and emotional decline is mirrored in Powell’s physical appearance, making Aiden seem even more unstable than he may already be. Really, if Powell can make me dislike the character this much, then he has to be doing something right.
All things considered, We Die Alone is quite well made and feels grounded in reality, which makes its horrors a little more tangible and frightening. It most certainly isn’t going to click with all audiences, especially those looking for something with a supernatural lean or unrestrained brutality, but may just please those that want their horror a little more grounded in reality. Truth be told, isn’t reality already frightening enough as it is?
Another great short. Baker Chase Powell really nails the role.