Alone (2020), Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, (Horror Movie Review)

Alone (2020), Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, (Horror Movie Review)
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PLOT: Jessica (Jules Willcox) decides to move across the country after a personal tragedy. After aggressively passing a slow driver, she notices that the same driver seems to be following her. The bad news is that he happens to be a serial killer interested in single women.

LOWDOWN: John Hyams is one helluva an underrated director. Mostly working in the TV landscape, when he does jump into a film, he always knocks 'em dead. Hyams is responsible for literally saving the Universal Soldier franchise. Regeneration and Day of Reckoning are some of the most brutal and intense action sequels I've seen and live up to the amazing original. When I read about Alone (WATCH IT HERE - OWN IT HERE), I was excited to see Hyams tackle a slow-burn thriller, and I am happy to say that he doesn't disappoint.

Alone doesn't tell a very unique or complicated story, and for the most part, it's a classic tale of a woman trying to survive after being kidnapped by a serial killer. You know what you're in for with this type of film, yet Hyams pulls out a far more Hitchcockian and emotional tale than I was expecting. Broken up into chapters, each act ends with a sense of closure, not for the story but an emotional ending point of the particular characters progress. I love this approach as it keeps things tight and almost feels like we're witnessing these events in real-time. Taking cues from films like Duel, or even Jeepers Creepers, Alone spends the first third just in the state of suspicion. Besides a bit of road rage, we just follow Jessica on her journey across the country. Emotionally damaged, she's already in a state of shock, but when she continues to see the same black Jeep Grand Cherokee, every moment in and out of the car is a nail-bitter. The tension here is perfect; with the Jeep sometimes out of focus or just driving by in the background, its presence is always there, always watching. Something that you don't see very often is the killer making contact so quickly. Marc Menchaca, credited as "Man," tries to apologize to Jessica early on. Menchaca is unassuming as a dorky dude with an '80s porn stache and big retro glasses. He's not trying to hurt her, at least at first, but he playfully pushes her (f*cking with her, really). "The Man" loves the journey as much as the destination. Menchaca is a perfect casting choice, and with his fantastic turn in Stephen King's The Outsider and his somber role on Ozark, he is one I'll be keeping a better eye on from now on.

Jessica (Jules Willcox) doesn't play nice. Though her heightened sense of existential dread is from the vague trauma she has experienced, Jessica is suspicious (and rightfully so) from the beginning. It's refreshing to see a character that can't place the issue with Menchaca except that he keeps suspiciously popping up and has enough street smarts to avoid giving in to his "innocent charm." Willcox doesn't get much dialogue and sells the character with nothing but raw emotion. As cliché as the premise is, Alone works and works damn well because of its two leads. Willcox starts wounded from the opening title, and Menchaca is a psychopath that isn't faking his dorky facade but hiding his deep-seated evil. These two own it and elevate Alone into a horror/thriller with some big damn teeth and one sharp bite.

There were a few missteps that do stick out. This is a chase film from the road to the forest, and more than a few times, Menchaca's "The Man" finds Jessica with ease. Even when she's far enough ahead that she should be ok, Menchaca shows up to her exact spot. Does she have some f*cking GPS tracker in her pocket? They establish that he's killed women before, but they never give any indication that he's a professional tracker. His motive is a secluded cabin for his murders, not a Surviving The Game type of ritual. I know this is usually how these play out, but Alone is wise enough to focus on the vast wilderness with two opposing forces instead of intensity and gore (which I do love, btw), so I wish they would have made this harder for the killer.

GORE: There isn't much blood and gore here. This focuses on the tension of survival more than anything else.

BOTTOM LINE: Alone is a cold, melancholy, and nerve-wracking film. John Hyams proves he should work more in the genre as he not only owns it when he delves into action but has an excellent eye for suspense as well. Besides a generic and challenging title to search for, Alone is one of the best thrillers I've seen all year, with Willcox and Menchaca doing a bang-up job, giving some of their best performances. Give this a watch asap!

Alone from Magnolia Pictures is out NOW! Watch It Here - Own It Here.

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