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Alone (2020)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Driven To Fears"
4 stars

It was the great Jean-Luc Godard who once famously “In order to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie.” Even though it is based on a 2011 Swedish film and had to have been in production at least several months ago, it is extremely tempting to look upon “Alone” as a film made as a response to and a critique of the recent Russell Crowe road rage nonsense “Unhinged.” Both films have somewhat similar initial concepts and share such stylistic conceits as an extremely limited cast of characters. However, in practical every imaginable area, it beats its predecessor with a lean and effective thriller that takes a familiar premise and breathes new life and no small amount of genuine dread into it.

Following a personal tragedy, Jessica (Jules Wilcox) has packed her belongings into a U-Haul trailer and hit the road. While traveling a lonely valley road, she finds herself stuck behind a black Grand Cherokee driving under the speed limit and when she tries to pass him, he then speeds up and nearly forces a collision with an oncoming semi before eventually speeding away. This incident understandably unnerves Jessica and begins seeing the vehicle popping up again and again, though those cars could theoretically be other random and anonymous SUVs out there. The next morning, the innocuous-looking driver (Marc Menchaca) unexpectedly comes up to her and apologizes for his earlier behavior. Once she gets back on the road, however, the game of cat and mouse continues until there is an accident and attack that culminates with her being drugged and waking up in the basement of a remote cabin in the woods.

Without going into too much more detail—what I have described constitutes roughly the first half-hour or so—I will simply note that Jessica manages to free herself, somewhat earlier than one might expect, and the remainder of the film is a long pursuit through the woods as an exhausted and injured Jessica attempts to evade the relentless pursuit of her kidnapper. Like the opening stretch of the film, which owes an obvious tip of the cap to the likes of “Duel” and other roadway peril films, this portion will remind viewers of any number of films in which women have been stalked and hunted in the great outdoors, such as “Black Rock” and “Revenge.” While the film may not exactly be overflowing with wild creative abandon, it still works for a number of reasons. Screenwriter Mattias Olsson (who wrote the original) and director John Hyams (son of Peter, the Ron Burgundy of the DGA) have presented the material in a sleek and stylish manner that offers up some nicely chilling moments without ever tipping over into gross exploitation and culminates with a surprisingly satisfying conclusion. As the unnamed villain, Menchaca’s delivers a convincingly repellent performance as a man whose unexceptional exterior (with his resounding bland and well-fed appearance, he suggests a Hickory Farms sampler that has been given human form) barely masks the monstrous nature lying underneath. As for Wilcox, she makes for a interesting and sympathetic protagonist who comes across like a real person and not just a character being pushed around by the machinations of the plot.

As I have suggested, “Alone” does not exactly reinvent the wheel, dramatically speaking. However, what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in ingenuity and style. This is the kind of modestly staged B movie that is not only better than it had to be but sticks in the mind afterwards-the kind that comes up when the discussion comes around to personal favorite films that others may not have heard of before. Granted, it is a bit of a shame that most people will wind up seeing this at home because I can readily imagine a large audience responding to it in an enthusiastic manner. Then again, maybe it is for the best because at least that way, you can avoid what would almost certainly be a nervous journey home.

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originally posted: 09/18/20 00:17:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 15-Dec-2020


  DVD: 15-Dec-2020

Directed by
  John Hyams

Written by
  Mattias Olsson

  Jules Willcox
  Marc Menchaca
  Anthony Heald
  Jonathan Rosenthal

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