Starring Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, and Anthony Heald
Written by Mattias Olsson
Directed by John Hyams
We’ve all had strange encounters with strangers. Traveling alone, you can feel like a target and on the open road, things can get quite scary. Taking that fear and creating a unique, terror-filled ride, John Hyams’ (Black Summer, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) survivalist horror Alone is a tense, nightmare road trip from hell that just might keep Xanax in business.
Following the passing of her husband, Jessica (Jules Willcox, Bloodline, Under the Silver Lake) just wants to escape and start again. Deciding to leave a day early with her U-Haul ready to go, Jessica hits the road and does her best to leave her pain behind. It’s that setup that really allows you as a viewer to latch onto Alone before anything bad has happened. You feel the fracture in Jessica and when she gets into somewhat of a switching lanes issue with another driver on the road; there’s a tension in her shoulders that causes you to see that she’s been through the ringer, even prior to us meeting her. As a viewer, the tension builds, from the moment Jessica comes into contact with the man driving the other vehicle (Ozark’s Marc Menchaca). Moments later, while parked outside of a business, the man introduces himself, with his arm in a sling; there are Ted Bundy-esque vibes, but you’re still not quite sure whether or not there is any real danger on the horizon, or if it’s all in Jessica’s head.
There’s skill in what Hyams does with Alone, tiptoeing the line of making its viewer go back and forth between being frightened by the man and thinking for a moment or five, that we could (along with the film’s protagonist) be paranoid. Some directors would go for a more bombastic approach to the story, but the dread lives and breaths in this one, to the point of making its viewer feel almost sick when danger does transpire. What we get, following the film’s revelation, is a story of survival against the most devastating of existences, a will to keep going and to endure, something that harkens back the loss of a loved one and trying to keep going that we were given from the beginning with Jessica. Wilcox plays Jessica with such nuance, that you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat, hoping that she’ll make it out alive and in one piece, though as the film goes on, you begin to realize that in some ways, there’s no going back to how things were, prior to trauma and abuse.
Menchaca is also on top of his game with Alone. The actor plays the man without an over the top approach that is found in so many films similar to this one. His performance is subtle, almost cold and it works so well for the tension building. A man with double lives, one as a family man and one as a cold-blooded killer, he feels at home with some of the better serial killer characters this genre has had in the past. Menchaca plays the man as a master manipulator, someone who uses Jessica’s mental state as a way to get one over on people, especially in a blood-curdling scene involving The Silence of the Lambs’ Chilton himself, Anthony Heald, as a hunter trying to help a distraught Jessica.
Full of terrifying tension and an eerie sense of dread, Alone is a film that provides scares and shocks at every corner, until you’re left drained and fighting to catch your breath. A story of survival and dealing with the trauma in front of you, this film is one to watch out for and quite easily one of this writer’s favorite films of the year.
As terrifying as humanly possible, Alone will do for solo travels what Jaws did for swimming.