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Unseen Halloween: He Knows You're Alone (1980)

Unseen Halloween: He Knows You're Alone (1980)
10.27.2015by: JimmyO
7 10

Welcome to a new, Halloween-centric feature, trick 'r treaters! The Arrow in the Head staff (along with some special guests) will be recommending obscure fright flicks throughout the month of October, hopefully enhancing your "31 Days of Horror"! Welcome to UNSEEN HALLOWEEN! (See previous entries HERE!)

PLOT: A crazed killer stalks brides-to-be just before their wedding night. So clearly he tends to know when they are alone.

REVIEW: Looking back at the slasher films of the early Eighties, it is almost shocking at how tame they are in comparison to horror today. While there are a number of cool flicks from that era, one that has always stood out to me is HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE. If you aren’t familiar with this feature, it involves a psychopath who is stalking brides-to-be. This fine feature also happens to be a very similar film to the horror classic HALLOWEEN. From the synth score to the three girls and the silent killer, it is very clear the kind of film they were going for. Even still, somehow it all works. It may be dated, and it may be a rip off, but it is far better than many of the films just like it that came out after HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th.

One of the many fascinating aspects of this flick is the beginning. We first meet two female friends watching a slasher flick - one starring FRIDAY THE 13th PART II’s Russell Todd - and one of the girls has a really bad feeling. With a slight spoiler warning, this first sequence is a obvious inspiration to the Wes Craven hit SCREAM 2 opening with Jada Pinkett Smith. Yet, the story really begins with an attractive young woman named Amy Jensen (Caitlin O’Heaney) who is about to be married. When her husband-to-be goes on an out of town bachelor party, she is left with a feeling that she is being followed. And of course, nobody believes her, not even her ex-boyfriend Marvin (Don Scardino) who still has a flame burning for her. Meanwhile, after his own wife was murdered on their wedding day years before, Detective Len Gamble (Lewis Arlt) attempts to track down the crazed killer (Tom Rolfing) before he kills again.

When I first saw this flick at a young age on late night cable, it didn’t strike me how similar it was to HALLOWEEN. It creeped me out well enough that I remembered it fondly. Returning to the film, it is far more clear just how much they “borrow” from the John Carpenter classic, yet somehow it still works. Like most of the movies from this period, it takes a bit to build up to when the killer finally begins to terrorize. However, until he does, his creepy stalker behavior is effective. When our leading lady begins to notice him - this guy doesn’t wear a mask - she becomes extremly paranoid. Unfortunately for her, nobody seems to believe her. Perhaps it is just upcoming wedding night jitters. Of course this is a horror film, so we know damn well that her and her friends are in jeopardy.

While many slasher films feel exploitive, HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE manages to remain mostly classy. Sure there is the hot girl in the shower, courtesy of the lovely Elizabeth Kemp. Yet like this film’s inspiration, the girls feel a little smarter than your typical horror feature. Director Armand Mastroianni attempts to inject a small bit of intelligence here. It may be by the numbers, but it is still a decently shot flick with a few intriguing choices. A couple of the scares work better than you’d expect because they are placed in very non-threatening places. The bridal shop kill isn’t bad, and the way the killer shows up randomly works well enough. The dude with the crazy eyes is a bit intimidating.

Another reason why this works is the casting of both O’Heaney and Scardino. I really enjoyed the two on-screen together, and it helped keep me fully invested in the hidden danger lurking at every corner. And if you are a fan of Tom Hanks, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the actor in a small role. It is impossible to say whether or not he was going to be the massive star he has become from this, but for his first feature being a horror flick, he is very good. Some of the performances may be slightly too big and melodramatic, but there is more than enough to make it work.

HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE is a blatant ripoff of HALLOWEEN - with a little WHEN A STRANGER CALLS thanks to the detective story line. Thankfully, it is still pretty damn good and worth watching. Hell, this flick even inspired one of the best sequences in SCREAM 2, so that’s a good thing. With a charismatic leading couple, and a oddly creepy killer, there is enough in this synth infused slasher to make it worth your time. And if you happen to be getting married, this may be the perfect scary date for the two of you. It may not be terribly bloody, but hey, this is a classic example of why the early Eighties and their horror films are still connecting with fans all these years later.

BEST BLOODY BITS: Like a number of slashers from the early Eighties, there isn't a whole lot of gore if that's what you are looking for. The most brutal involves a decapitation and an aquarium, but it's not nearly as gory as it sounds.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Where is the cool new Blu-Ray release of this one? I would buy that. Until then, you can find HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE here at Amazon for rent or buy. Or you can look for the basic DVD release, it's worth checking out thanks to a terrific commentary track from the writer and director of the film. 

DRINKING GAME:

  • If you hear a synth score that sounds a whole lot like HALLOWEEN, take a small sip. If you do much more than that you'll be under the table in fifteen minutes.
  • Everytime you see a close-up of the killer's (Tom Rolfing) eyes - there is a reason this guy was cast in the role.
  • If Tom Hanks is on-screen, take a shot - actually make it a double.

Source: AITH

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