To all the fans of films like Jean-Claude Van Damme/Cung Le starrer Dragon Eyes, and even the celebrated genre thrills of the Universal Soldier reboot sequels in 2009 and 2012: Filmmaker John Hyams may have been busy with his upkeep in the TV arena for the better half of the last eight years, and yet still after all this time, he knows how to deliver the filmgoing goods.
Reimagined from Swedish 2011 thriller, Forsvunnen, Hyams helms the pic from a script by Mattias Olsson who directed the original with Henrik JP Åkesson; It was just a few years after the original’s release when Hyams reportedly took to Olsson’s chiseled new script, and by all accounts according to his director’s statement, hit all the right notes in outlining what he elucidates as “a suspense thriller crystalized to its essence”.
Alone starts off as a pensive, quiet, slow-mover that introduces Jessica (Jules Willcox), as she commences her drive through the Pacific Northwest after quietly leaving town to the dismay of her concerned parents following a tragedy she’s recently endured. A long while into her drive, Jessica attempts to pass a muddied black SUV, nearly causing an accident in the process, and ultimately getting the unwanted attention of its seemingly innocuous driver (Marc Menchaca) who approaches Jessica in an effort to make nice.
After parting ways, it isn’t long before the mysterious man’s recurring reappearance ensues a deadly realization that causes Jessica to fear for her life, and rightfully so, when her car gets trapped in a ditch, and her stalker finally catches up. Hours later, she reawakens in a dark, dreary basement with no way out as she’s held prisoner and tormented, as her captor’s personal plaything, and all she can do is wait for the right moment to find anything and everything within her grasp to escape.
If you haven’t seen a film yet that’s been directed by Hyams or even his father, Peter Hyams (Timecop, Sudden Death, Enemies Closer), it’ll be a little difficult to fully grasp the brevity of the enjoyment that these films come with. Alone graciously joins the cadre of absolute winners from the fan fave filmmaking descendant, aptly crafting a story that dances to the beat of its own drum with no frills and very little riffs along the way. It’s intensity increases at a steady pace from scene to scene, arousing an adrenaline rush that flows in accordance with the film’s pace.
Shot in Oregon’s green wilderness, Hyams employs dexterous cinematography to capture the heavily wooded backdrop, making ample use of the camera in service to the film’s cast in action. While the second half of the film capitulates into a rollicking chase sequence that sees Jessica wounded and chased into the elements, near-crippled and her clothes disheveled, the film’s delivery is unquestionably fueled by the stakes set in place with Menchaca in exactly the kind of brilliant, menacing performance that makes a film like this work.
Of course, at the very core of Olsson’s tightly-woven screenplay is the introspective joruney Jessica faces along the way. Stoic as she is from the outset, Jessica’s battle is equally psychological as it is physical, as she’s forced to confront her own demons whilst in the throes of a ruthless psychopath who’s managed to map his way throughout the forest, turning it into his own personal hunting ground. She’s in constant fight-or-flight mode even as she manages to stumble upon good samaritan named Robert (Anthony Heald) to save her from peril, and needless to say, her reprieve is short-lived, leaving her cornered and no choice but to fight back at all costs, with sheer will as her only real weapon.
Shot by cinematographer Federico Verardi, and scored by Nima Fakhrara, and edited by Hyams along with Scott Roon, Alone is as indelible as it is exemplary for fans of suspenseful thrills, action and a fair amount of gore to spruce things up. It’s also a signature success for a director who knows how to leave moviegoers wanting more in a market saturated by superheroes and big scale IPs.
Alone is cut and dry, streamlined with subtlety and finesse in its delivery of a palpable, pulsating cat-and-mouse thriller in the vein of Misery, Duel and Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher, and with Willcox topping it all off in a performance that will have you in good company for its duration.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.