John Hyams' Alone is a razor-sharp thriller, capitalizing on its cat-and-mouse premise and wooded location to make for a film that feels familiar, yet packs a heavy punch. Jules Willcox and Marc Menchaca turn what could've been just another kidnapped vs abductor showdown into a slick slice of horror fun.
Director John Hyams‘ latest thriller Alone is a masterful exploration of fear, pitting a recently widowed woman (Jules Willcox) up against a crazed psychopath (Marc Menchaca) in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as the woman is left with only her instincts and the wilderness around her to defend herself and make it out alive. Alone is compact, clean and forceful in its execution, thanks to Hyams’ direction and a pair of performances that absolutely elevate an otherwise pedestrian script to new heights.
Jessica (Jules Willcox) is recently widowed. Her proverbial life tank is running on fumes as she must now pick up the pieces and move forward. She’s not exactly sure where she’s going, but she knows that she has to leave and she does so without even saying goodbye to her parents.
She loads up the UHAUL and hits the road, leaving nothing but past memories in her rearview.
Things take an unexpected turn when she notices a man (Marc Menchaca) that seems to be following her. This raises Jessica’s awareness as she slowly starts to feel that unsettling feeling creep up the back of her neck.
Suddenly, she wakes up in a basement, with the man doing yard work on the outside, signaling for her to keep quiet.
Jessica knows what she has to do to escape and to survive.
John Hyams‘ Alone is scripted by Mattias Olsson and together the two turn what could’ve been just another low-budget horror film about a kidnapping into something special.
Alone‘s premise is simple and to the point, which actually works out in the film’s favor, because you know exactly what to expect. But what you don’t expect is for the film to work so efficiently, hitting all of the right beats at precisely the right moments to make for a film that’s highly effective and low on dull points.
The introduction to Jessica is calm and collected. We know through visuals and her actions where she’s been and what she’s doing, which speeds up all of the backstory to get us right into the meat of the movie.
Even the introduction of Man (awesome name) is quiet and sprinkled onto the film in a way that gradually leads towards something bigger. It’s obvious where things are headed, yet the film operates with pacing in mind, feeding you certain information slowly, while ramping up into the thick of it where it counts.
This allows Hyams to build on his characters and more importantly, build on the backdrop for what is about to take place. He does this both quickly and yet with enough restraint to never make the film feel like it’s rushing past an important beat.
Mattias Olsson‘s script is far from original, yet I would still consider it a well-polished piece of writing, because of its ability to stay on-point and Hyams’ efforts in bringing it to life on the big screen in a way that feels fresh and exciting.
I think Alone works so well for two reasons. Reason number one is Hyams’ direction, which is downright gorgeous and crafted with steady attention. The backdrop for this film is a character itself and makes those suspenseful moments all the better because of Hyams and his DP’s ability to really map things out and give you a sense of the location.
Reason number two is the lead performances from both Jules Willcox and Marc Menchaca. Together, they strike gold portraying the kidnapped widow and the sadistic abductor. They play off of each other in a way that feels organic and they both amp up the intensity as the film picks up momentum.
Menchaca’s Man doesn’t need a five page background to paint him as a sick individual that likes abducting people while telling his wife that he’s away on business. While Willcox’s Jessica doesn’t need to lean too hard into the damaged and broken widow trying to fight for her life.
They both understand what it means to give performances that are reserved when needed, yet can flip into an urgent response when the script calls for some heavy hitting.
This subtle, yet noticeable transformation from both makes Alone interesting and so much better than most films of this similar nature.
I’ve seen a dozen films like this one, but none have what it takes to pull of such a simple premise in a way that feels satisfying or even rewarding. Alone has what it takes, featuring all of those ingredients that make this one a worthwhile investment.
I rented Alone on-demand thinking that it was going to be another forgettable thriller that was going to be more of a technical exercise for the cast than an actual statement of how to make a damn good movie. Alone takes something familiar and overdone and firmly stamps a “hell yeah” onto it, making for a thrilling dose of hunt or be hunted, overcoming your fears and becoming the bad ass that you need to be to overcome any of life’s wild and unplanned obstacles.