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Review: 'Alone' Not Original, but Tense and Empowering

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Sep 18, 2020
Marc Menchaca in 'Alone'
Marc Menchaca in 'Alone'  

While it doesn't rewrite the genre in any way, the new thriller "Alone" still manages to tighten your neck muscles and make you clench your fists to your couch as the terror on the screen progresses.

Jessica (Jules Willcox) is a woman trying to move on with her life. After the suicide of her husband, she's finally packed up her apartment and ready for a fresh start. She's headed to Northern California to do just that.

As these solo journeys go (in film, anyway) Jessica will do something that seems benign (try to pass a slow-moving SUV) and in so doing, spark the ire of the person behind the wheel. That person is an un-named Man played creepily by Marc Menchaca, and he's not too thrilled that Jessica not only tried to cut him off but also, later on, fails to help him when his car breaks down. Who would? He's weird! And, by golly, we all know that bastard is lying.

Thus Jessica's trip becomes a long descent into Hell.

As mentioned, there is nothing new that director John Hyams or writer Mattias Olsson are bringing to the table. This is a relatively straight-forward man vs. man tale that takes place on the road, in an old cabin, and in the woods. We've seen all of this before.

That said, Hyams is really good at ratcheting up the tension and keeping us on the edge of our seats. Between those headlights that keep appearing out of the darkness and the Man appearing as if out of nowhere, we're always on our toes, yelling for Jessica to run or stop doing insane things. (Don't get in the killer's car unless you know he's left the keys in there. Jesus!) Because Jessica is someone we can relate to, and whose tragic past we feel bad for, we don't want to see her get hurt.

Manchaca's performance is just the right amount of icky and fake-friendly to make your skin crawl. (I could have done without the serial-killer glasses, though.) He's got a dominating presence that doesn't feel over the top but definitely makes you question if he would kill you outright just because.

We don't get much in the way of motivation for him, so we're not exactly sure what he wants to do with Jessica aside from getting her back for wounding his ego, but that's part of the terror. The unknown is always scarier, and it allows the audience to project its fears on our heroine and root for her to kick some bad-guy ass.

The fact that she does it alone is empowering.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.

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