Witchcraft is a powerful tool for storytelling in horror. It bottles up ideas of humanity and gender in a way that goes a long way in the genre. You Won’t Be Alone manages to distill a coming-of-age story into a gripping nightmare that focuses on emotion over the cleanliness of the narrative, and it works. The film is written and directed by Goran Stolevski, and stars Noomi Rapace, Anamaria Marinca, Sara Klimoska, Alice Englert, and Félix Maritaud.
Set in an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia, You Won’t Be Alone follows a young girl, Nevena (Sara Klimoska), kidnapped and then transformed into a witch by an ancient spirit, Old Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca). The Old Maid, a 200-year-old witch, burned at the stake, channels her pain and jealousy into harming the village. With this, Stolevski crafts lore that adds a deep fear into the small Macedonian village. Nevena enters this world of violence and witchcraft after being cast out of the village, promised to Maria after being marked as a baby.
Now 16, the young witch Nevena accidentally kills a peasant in the nearby village and then takes her victim’s shape to live life in her skin. Her curiosity ignited, she continues to wield this horrific power to understand what it means to be human. And Stolevski ensures that the power is indeed horrific. A “witching spit” allows transformation—a vile way of mixing bodily fluids that advance from saliva on an open wound to absolutely uncomfortable body horror.
There is cruelty throughout the film, a chilling kind that burrows into you. But there is also empathy that flows like a tether as one character jumps between different bodies. As the narrative evolves, it’s chaotic and almost hard to follow. But the confusion delivers a payoff for audiences as emotional beats culminate and explode. But while there are moments of fear and others that made me viscerally uncomfortable, there are also moments of calm that allow the film to breathe and for Stolevski to showcase his ability to utilize scenery as a character on its own.
You Won’t Be Alone is viscerally unsettling. Its focus on nature is terrifying, and its sound design makes every scene burrow its way into you. The film is experimental in parts—like shots that bring you through the eyes of an animal—but its scares and tension are conventional in a way, focused on pushing the audience into a corner before forcing them to witness gore that is executed extremely well.
Now, conventional isn’t a fault; no, it’s a strength. You Won’t Be Alone thrives because it taps into fears we all have, dancing on humanity’s breaking point and exploring it deeply. While the narrative flow will be hard for some to latch onto with some of its more confusing elements, it manages to answer questions on adulthood, identity, humanity, and gendered fear that is wide-reaching. While time jumps work to create almost an unreliable timeline for the story, the characters and
Overall, You Won’t Be Alone is a strong and stellar horror debut for Stolevski. While the film won’t land for everyone, for those with an appreciation for non-linear storytelling, visual experimentation, and an exploration of human curiosity that embraces pain and sex You Won’t Be Alone is a homerun for you.
You Won’t Be Alone is playing now in theaters.
You Won't Be Alone
- Rating - 8/108/10
You Won’t Be Alone is a strong and stellar horror debut for Stolevski. While the film won’t land for everyone, for those with an appreciation for non-linear storytelling, visual experimentation, and an exploration of human curiosity that embraces pain and sex, You Won’t Be Alone is a homerun for you.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.