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Alone Movie Review

Written by Rebecca McCallum

Released by Signature Entertainment


Directed by John Hyams
Written by Mattias Olsson
2020, 98 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Grimmfest UK premiere on 7th October 2020

Jules Willcox as Jessica
Marc Menchaca as Man
Anthony Heald as Robert
Jonathan Rosenthal as Eric


A woman loads up a trailer with her belongings and, unable to find any more space, she leaves behind a small tree. This is fitting as trees will play a significant part in not only the narrative but in the aesthetic of Alone. Jessica is making a journey from the lofty buildings of the city to a woodland idyl that is densely populated with lush and towering (you guessed it) trees. As she navigates her way amongst the dauntingly gorgeous scenery, the sense of ‘aloneness’ is solidified; her vulnerability seemingly enhanced by the vast open spaces. Jessica has decided to leave her past behind in favour of a move to a rural haven despite her parents hinting that she needs more time (and therapy) to recover from a recent trauma. However, while on the road she has a series of uncomfortable encounters with a man who proceeds to menace her.

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Alone is split into five neat segments, each with its own headline making for contained and digestible viewing. In the early parts, the film owes an obvious debt to the 1986 cult classic The Hitcher, creating and sustaining gasp-inducing levels of tension. Director Hyams manages to deliver some terrific moments that make your heart shudder and leave you questioning what you would do in Jessica’s situation. What’s more, Jessica herself is (refreshingly) shown making believable, mindful choices such as keeping her window wound down only an inch or so when approached by her assailant and calling the Police when she feels she is being pursued. When the man (who is moustached up and wearing a pair of glasses that scream ‘creep’) asks for some help with his car which has a broken engine, he tells her: "I’ll push, you can steer", a beautifully crafted line that sums up the film in just five words.

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Despite putting up a brave fight, Jessica is drugged and kidnapped by ‘creep’ and finds herself locked in a cell-like room. Here things take an even more disturbing turn as, in an emotional scene, he finds out the reason she has moved away and uses this to psychologically torture her. This detail adds layers to Jessica and deepens our ability relate to her. We are also shown another side to ‘Creep’ as we see him take a call from his wife and hear him talk about family life. The swiftness with which he is able to switch from discussing baby milk to wielding a knife is absolutely chilling. For a moment, he almost seems ordinary, a prospect that is truly disturbing. As we watch captor and captive try to outwit and outrun one another, it’s impossible not to want to shout "go, girl, go!" and with the addition of a score that resembles both heartbeat and footsteps the suspense reaches high peaks.

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With only a small cast, the look and feel of Alone is key and the cinematography manages to find beauty in the most unlikely of places, such as at a gas station which is dimly lit with a watery moon hanging broodingly above. The cast are on point throughout but particular mention must go to Jules Willcox for inhabiting Jessica and hitting so many emotional beats with such nuance. For long time fans of the genre, there is also a thrilling treat in the form of a supporting role by Anthony Heald (Dr Chilton, The Silence of the Lambs) and Marc Menchaca commands an arresting onscreen presence as ‘the man’. For giving me a central female character who is both vulnerable and fearless, for introducing me to the idea of goats cheese and honey and sandwiches, and for one of the best final shots I’ve seen in a horror film for years, Alone is an original work that is not to be missed.


Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover
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