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Sundance movie review: 'You Won't Be Alone' will make you wish you were

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Sundance movie review: 'You Won't Be Alone' will make you wish you were
Noomi Rapace is one of the witch babies in "You Won't Be Alone." Photo courtesy of the Sundance Institute and Focus Features

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- You Won't Be Alone, which premiered virtually at the Sundance Film Festival, is chasing the "elevated horror" trend. That movement is already an acquired taste that turns off some horror fans. The half that hate elevated horror are already out, but You Won't Be Alone could lose the other half, too.

A creature called a Wolf-Eateress (Anamaria Marinca) wants the blood of a newborn baby. The Wolf-Eateress is a burn-scarred woman with claws that pierce the skin to help her drain blood.

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The baby's mother tries to raise her in safety in a cave, but the Wolf-Eateress finds her anyway. As the baby grows up, she takes many forms including Sara Klimoska, Noomi Rapace, Carloto Cotta and Alice Englert.

The Wolf-Eateress has already transferred witchy powers, giving her claws and the ability to transform. To their credit, the actors maintain a continuity of character.

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She tries to mimic the women of the villages she finds. Klimoska's voice narrates in pseudo poetic passages about "every me" and "bees buzzing in my bowels." Maybe it's lost in translation from the spoken Macedonian, but that wouldn't fly on a poetry slam open mic night.

Writer/director Goran Stolevski wants very much to be Terrence Malick in 19th century Macedonia, and even authentic Malick films are divisive. Stolevski struggles to find much atmosphere when it looks like he just went out into the woods where they wouldn't need permits, or lights because it's outdoors.

The handheld camera makes no effort to stay centered. It's not floating gracefully. Rather, it's all jittery.

There is plenty of viscera on display if the gore hounds can wait through all the slow patches where she helps the villagers with chores. Sex frequently leads to violence, as it often does in horror movies.

Maria is a full body burn makeup applied to Marinca, and the young Wolf-Eateress claims many victims on her path. For a movie with this much sex and violence, it's very boring.

However, fans of movies like The Vvitch or It Comes At Night may find the above description appealing. You Won't Be Alone is going for that kind of tone, but with much more graphic content.

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Yet, these kind of arthouse slow burn horror movies can be compelling. Midsommer had an exotic foreign village where their ceremony was fascinating and terrifying. By the time You Won't Be Alone flashes back to how the Wolf-Eateress got burned, thus how the whole cycle began, she's not that compelling a mythology.

Or, perhaps that is the litmus test. If the mythology lost you in the first act, it's never going to win you back. If you're intrigued and want to see where this goes, perhaps you won't be alone after all.

Focus Features will release You Won't Be Alone in theaters April 1.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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