Part psychological thriller, part horror comedy, “Stranger Things” writer Kate Trefry’s totally clever first film — the short “How to Be Alone,” which just debuted at SXSW in its Midnight Shorts section — takes its eponymous idea and runs with it, straight into some unexpected new avenues.
The film features “It Follows” and “The Guest” star Maika Monroe “as a woman whose deepest fears seem to manifest physically when her husband, played by Joe Keery, leaves for the night shift.” From standard scares like “creepy things in the closet” and “dark corners” to some more, well, specific chills, Trefry’s first film cleverly toes the line between the scary and the silly. Snappily edited, Trefry also knows when to pull back when things are getting too icky (be aware: there’s plenty of fake blood) and lean back into something a touch more humorous.
And, like all good shorts, “How to Be Alone” presents a fully realized world of its own, though it certainly hints at bigger stories lurking just out of frame. Monroe’s character very clearly has a tangled backstory, but not knowing all the details doesn’t hinder the short from being compelling on its own. And it packs a banger of a last shot, as funny and freaky as anything else in Trefry’s debut.
Trefry shared that many of the emotions and ideas that fuel the short are very personal indeed. (And that’s to say nothing of Trefry discovering she was pregnant in the midst of her prep, a life change that has its own impact on some of the bigger scares in the film.)
The filmmaker told IndieWire, “I was five months pregnant when I shot ‘How to Be Alone’ with a team of unbelievably talented weirdoes. Connecting with them made me realize what I thought was a story about my most secret freaky pregnancy anxiety is actually just how a lot of us feel all the time. So this short film is for the weirdoes: no matter how strange or scared or different you feel, you are not alone. We got you.”
The film was produced by Lee Stobby, Ben Bolea, Bobby Hoppey, David Carrico, John Trefry, and James Mitchell.
Check out IndieWire’s exclusive debut of “How to Be Alone” below.