In the lean taut thriller “Alone” a woman finds herself constantly in the unwanted company of a creepy middle-aged stalker with all the markings of a serial killer. It’s a simple premise and director John Hyams wrings out every drop of tension while once again proving that when it comes to cinema less is often more.
“Alone” is a remake of the 2011 Swedish film “Gone”. It’s written by screenwriter Mattias Olsson who wrote and co-directed the original. The film opens on a woman named Jessica (Jules Wilcox) loading a Uhaul trailer. She fills it with the last of her personal items, gets into her car, sets the GPS and heads out. She leaves the unnamed city and is soon traveling along winding rural roads lined with beautiful tall timber and scarcely a house to be seen. We aren’t told where she’s going, but we get the sense she’s leaving something behind, perhaps in an attempt to make a new start.
From there Hyams begins to tighten his narrative screws. The story is broken into chapters with the first called “The Road”. As Jessica travels she gets behind a slow-moving SUV and attempts to pass. But the driver speeds up almost causing Jessica to have a head-on with an oncoming 18-wheeler. The SUV then begins riding her bumper, honking and flashing its lights before finally veering off at an intersection. Later while getting gas she sees the SUV again. After staying the night at a motel she finds the mustached SUV driver (Mark Menchaca) waiting for her as she starts to leave. He apologizes for their encounter before hitting her with the creepily ambiguous “I’ll see ya around.” Yeah, I’m sure you will.
It’s followed by four more chapters, each with titles like “The River” and “The Rain” that mark our progression through the story. Needless to say the man doesn’t go away and Jessica soon finds herself in a match of wits and survival, alone with a maniac in a dense isolated forest that resembles the Pacific Northwest. In fact they’re so alone that Wilcox and Menchaca are the lone cast members except for a brief but excellent appearance by Anthony Heald (“Silence of the Lambs”). The performances really are terrific led by Wilcox who convincingly sells Jessica’s terror while showing her grit and ferocity specifically in the second half. And Menchaca is absolutely chilling, bringing an ‘average Joe’ menace to every scene he’s in.
Hyams helps his cast by showing off a great eye both with the camera and in the editing room. He works with DP Federico Verardi to put together a tense and immersive visual presentation. Keen touches like small and steady camera movements, crafty angles, and stunning high-resolution drone shots. And his co-editor work with Scott Roon is equally effective. Surgically precise cuts that are not only technically impressive, but that also ratchet up the nail-biting tension.
File “Alone” into the Really Nice Surprise category. From the very start the filmmakers commit to their premise, proving the movie’s simplicity is one of the its biggest strengths. We do learn a few character details along the way, but for the most part “Alone” remains an intensely focused thriller anchored by two dramatically different but equally effective performances. “Alone” is now showing in select theaters and on VOD.
VERDICT – 4 STARS