Aiden (Baker Chase Powell), a socially-inept thrift store clerk, wants to find true love (“true love” is a girl who likes jigsaw puzzles), but his courage-defying insecurities lead to social media ghosting of any connections he makes on dating apps (and his “agoraphobic-dating” a dumpster-dived mannequin). Also looking for — and fearful of love — is his co-worker, Elaine (Ashley Jones), whose own generosity with advice and to-a-fault kindness crossed with shyness perpetuates her own loneliness. And Aiden’s inability to pick up on another’s social cues makes him oblivious to Elaine’s feelings for him.
Aiden comes to find the courage through Chelsea (Samantha Boscarino), his new, beautiful — an ulterior-motive driven — apartment-across-the-hall neighbor (who digs the puzzle on his coffee table and his “vintage” ’70s-era phone). And she, like Aiden, has a failure adapting to and connecting with others through social (media) norms. And that common — real life and social media — awkwardness sends Aiden and Chelsea into a noirish decline of dangerous infatuation and obsession.
Sigmund Freud just called. Mommy’s womb wants you back; you’re not ready to be around people.
This creepy thriller effectively updates the twisty, black & white tales of Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain for a digital world. And when the “harmless” Aiden locks his stare on his mannequin and he starts stealing dainties . . . and the friendly Elaine comments, “. . . you think you know people. . . .” Chills (courtesy of the-just-nails-it Powell). You know this isn’t going to end well. And Cassie Keet’s script (written with director Marc Cartwright) of well-crafted herrings and Cartwright’s taste for the (Dario) Argento hits all the noir-giallo cues: when that dainty, red slip hits the Laundromat floor — well, poor Aiden just found Ms. Dietrichson’s “honey of an anklet” (Double Indemnity) and triggered a femme fatale chain-of-events.
If you’ve hung out with B&S About Movies for a time, then you know how we feel (but we’re nice) about indie films by unknown filmmakers meandering with an unfocused narrative structure towards a patience-trying two-hour mark that’s crying for a 30-minute celluloid sushi in Final Cut Pro. Then there are those films that run extensive end credits to pad their too-short running time to a home-distribution acceptable 80-minutes.
What’s makes this 22-minute fifth short by writer-director Marc Cartwright so refreshing is that you’re left wanting more. And that doesn’t happen often (the recent The Invisible Mother is an example of that “wanting”). You feel denied by not getting that other hour of film with We Die Alone. If there’s ever a short film that deserves expanding into a feature film (Fruit Chan’s cringey masterpiece Dumplings comes to mind), then it’s We Die Alone.
If Baker Chase Powell is familiar, that’s because he co-starred as Steve Dodd in Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy’s multiple-award winning biopic on ’70s exploitation filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore. Daytime TV fans have watched the Emmy-nominated Ashley Jones on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful; HBO surfers know her from her recurring role as Daphne on True Blood. You’ve recently watch Samantha Boscarino on FOX-TV’s The Resident, but our younger readers will remember her recurring role on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie; Lifetime fans enjoyed her as the lead in 2016’s The Cheerleader Murders (and she’s very good there, and here).
We Die Alone made its premiere at the Oscar-qualifying festivals LA Shorts and The Newport Beach Film Festival. It also picked up award wreaths at the Indie Memphis Film Festival (“Best After Dark Short”), iHorror Film Festival (“Best Director”), Shriekfest (“Best Thriller Short” and “Best Actor” for Baker Chase Powell), Filmquest (“Best Horror Short” and “Best Supporting Actress” for Ashley Jones), Crimson Screen Film Festival (“Best Actor” for Powell), Nightmares Film Fest (Powell, “Best Actor,” natch), and finally, GenreBlast (“Best Short Film”). Most recently, the Deep in the Heart Film Festival in Waco, Texas, granted three award nods to the film: Best Horror/Thriller Short, Best United States Short, and Best Performance for Baker Chase Powell. That festival streams from Waco on September 25 through 27 and October 2 through 4. Tickets are now on sale now at www.deepintheheartff.com.
You’ll be able to stream this multi-award festival winner beginning August 21 through Amazon Prime, with other services to follow. You can stay abreast of those developments with We Die Alone — as well as the other projects of Glass Cabin Films — on You Tube and Facebook and their official website.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.