September 14, 2020 Alone (Movie Review)
When your fears find you, should you run or should you stay and fight? One woman finds out just how determined she is to survive in Alone, which arrives in select theaters, as well as Digital and On Demand, beginning Friday, September 18, 2020 thanks to Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing.
A Survival Thriller in the realm of recent offerings such as 2020’s Range Runners and Ravage, Alone was directed by John Hyams (Z Nation series, Black Summer series) and written by Mattias Olsson (Caffeine short 2006, Försvunnen 2011). Based on Olsson’s 2011 Swedish Thriller Försvunnen (Gone), this is the story of Jessica (Jules Willcox: Bloodline series, Dreamkatcher 2020), who is relocating across Oregon. Though when a random encounter introduces a creep (Marc Menchaca: Homeland series, Ozark series) into her life, she will have to attempt to set her haunting past aside and focus on remaining vigilant while on the road.
Much like the two aforementioned Thrillers, Alone places its female protagonist in the wrong place at the wrong time. What she endures, therefore, appears entirely random: any other woman could have just as easily become this psychopath’s victim. This creates an intense tension for viewers as we struggle to understand if there is a connection between Willcox’s Jessica and Menchaca’s stalker, or if this is really and truly a random act of heinousness akin to 2008’s The Strangers.
And at 98 minutes, Alone is a fairly succinct tale that lacks in the multi-layered plots of other Thrillers. Instead, Hyams focuses his production on his leading lady, Willcox’s Jessica, who must be pushed to the limit before she finally snaps and begins to fight back. In this, there’s a relatability to the lead: she is not supernaturally strong to start, but her struggle is what morphs her into a bold threat. In this, Willcox is suitably fierce when it becomes necessary, though her role is largely to portray a more emotionally complex character who is grappling with her past.
Menchaca’s nameless killer takes advantage of Jessica’s psychological weakness to thwart her escape attempts. Because of this, there are aspects of the Psychological Thriller as he toys with his victim’s psyche to try to weaken her resolve. The character is every woman’s worst nightmare, and Menchaca brings him to life with an eeriness that lingers long after the final credits roll. Oddly, one of his most menacing performances comes in the form of his heavy footsteps that signal an approaching threat, his movements like the beating of a tell-tale heart beneath the floorboards. Both seemingly non-threatening and utterly chilling, he is the man who makes your blood run cold for absolutely no reason that you can discern. Serving as a warning, Menchaca’s performance reminds us to always trust our gut: for it is far better to appear rude than to end up raped and murdered!
Menchaca’s spine-tingling performance, therefore, casts doubt on all the nondescript, seemingly innocuous men that step into this landscape, including Anthony Heald’s (Silence of the Lambs 1991, X-Men: The Last Stand 2006) Robert. Though it would be hard to trust a hunter on any day, Heald enters the picture just in time to make us question who is to be trusted and who is to be treated as the enemy. Jessica’s reaction to his appearance is understandably hesitant and fearful, as she has been trapped into an impossible situation.
Similar to Swedish films, which often capitalize on vast, untouched landscapes and exhibit the respect due nature, Alone capitalizes on the natural splendor and formidable presence of Oregon’s wilderness. Beautifully shot with crisp visuals from Cinematographer Federico Verardi (Star Wars: The Force and the Fury short 2017, Z Nation series), including some breathtaking aerial drone photography, the film is visually striking and takes advantage of the early/late autumn foliage as a backdrop for much of its action. In some respects, the landscape itself is a character that only serves to both harm and help Jessica.
Again, to make comparisons to Range Runners and Ravage, Alone is more visually striking than its counterparts, but it lacks the detailed backstory of Range Runners or, if it’s gore you’re looking for, the sadism of Ravage. Still, Willcox’s Jessica is a strong female lead, one who, though not quite as fierce as Celeste M. Cooper’s superhuman Mel, is still determined enough to inspire. For fans of either of the other two films or Thrillers with strong ladies leading their cast, Alone is an enjoyable watch packed with tension and enough chills and thrills to make it worth adding to your queue. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Alone 4 of 5 stars.