“Alice, Darling” has been billed as a thriller, and indeed, the mounting dread of the trailer could easily lead you to think it’s a cannibalistic slasher in the style of 2022’s “Fresh” or 2020’s “Invisible Man.” That false head it is intentional. Director Mary Nighy and writer Alanna Francis use the rhythms of stalker suspense to quietly critique the genre’s narrow view of interpersonal violence and its unitary and personal triumph over adversity. Similar to «Talking Women,» the creators of «Alice, Darling» steer clear of pulp tropes to steer clear of patriarchal violence and patriarchal control.

The creators of «Alice, Darling» steer clear of pulp tropes to steer clear of patriarchal violence and patriarchal control.

The Alice of the title is played by Anna Kendrick, who spends the first 15 minutes of the film’s broadcast, through a nervous facial expression and frighteningly stiff body language, that her supposedly idyllic relationship with up-and-coming artist Simon (Charlie Carrick ) is not as perfect as it seems. When her best friends Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn) invite her to a cabin for a week’s vacation, Alice lies to Simon, saying she’s on a business trip and joining them again. ambivalent way.

There are numerous indications of upcoming violence. A jump scare early in the film when Simon unexpectedly joins Alice in the shower is (almost certainly intentional) a nod to «Psycho.» The remote location of Sophie’s house, complete with a deep, dark lake, is a staple of slasher movies. A girl in town has disappeared under mysterious circumstances – more potential narrative foreshadowing. Finally, Sophie shows Alice how to use a mallet to chop wood. According to slashers, in which the final girl is always better at fighting than one might expect, Alice is unexpectedly enthusiastic about the tool and is skilled with it.

If we were in a horror movie, you would know the story from here. Someone, either Simon or someone like Simon, would come after Sophie, Tess and Alice one by one. There would be bloody deaths and disembowelments. Alice’s affinity for sharp tools would become her salvation. At the end of the film, she, the Final Girl, would reveal her inner strength and her capacity for mega-violence, besting the antagonist in an apocalypse of self-actualization.

However, that is not what happens here. The film mostly avoids hyperbolic terror and triumph, allowing more intimate moments of anxiety and despair to resonate with nauseating force. Alice is constantly on the verge of falling apart. Each text from Simon sends her into a paroxysm of nervousness and anxiety; she sends him photos of sexy cleavage with grim determination. When she loses the earrings he gave her in the lake, she desperately begins diving to find them. It’s like she’s trying to drown, or like she’s already drowning.

The persistent anticlimax is intentional. Alice tells her friends at one point that Simon has never hurt her, which means he hasn’t hurt her. paste his. They are unbelievers. It is obvious that even though he has never touched her, Simon has seriously hurt her. Stalker genre movies always show us abuse bathed in blood. However, domestic violence in real life can be less dramatic. Simon is an expert with the weapons of criticism, shame, anger, name calling, and surveillance. Even the sex scenes are studiously non-violent, though they clearly show Alice’s misery.

Simon doesn’t need a gun. But Alice doesn’t need that deck to empower herself either.

Simon doesn’t need a gun. But Alice doesn’t need that deck to empower herself either. To add to the tension and a sense of isolation, thrillers typically focus on just one heroine, with her support structure systematically stripped away to better reveal her lonely genius. But in «Alice, Darling,» Sophie and Tess are more of a resource than cannon fodder. The movie is as much about them finding out what’s wrong with her friend as it is about Alice trying to escape from Simon. Once again, as in «Mujeres que hablando», the answer to patriarchy is not a strong woman who destroys the system, but an alternative community of women. In this film, feminism is a collective project.

Collective projects require negotiation and don’t necessarily fit pulp entertainment tropes as neatly as straight-up fantasies of empowerment. Much of «Alice, Darling» is made up of little revealing moments: Alice refuses to sing while Sophie plays the guitar, Tess puts her hand on Sophie’s heart. In the big confrontation in the movie, the three women mostly just stand there, saying almost nothing.

By nodding to stalker/slasher movies while refusing to be a stalker/slasher movie, “Alice, Darling” may irritate or confuse some viewers. Sometimes, though, it’s important to tell stories even when, or especially when, they’re not the stories we hoped for. Alice finds her own way, in part by discovering that she doesn’t have to do it alone.