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Alone (2020)
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by Jay Seaver

"Does what it sets out to do."
3 stars

SCREENED VIA THE 2020 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's a note at the end of the credits for "Alone" that states it was based upon another movie, and there's a temptation to wonder if anybody really would have known that this was adapted from any specific one of the couple thousand movies with a similar setup in Sweden or elsewhere. It and "Försvunnen" share the same screenwriter, so good on him getting paid twice for the frame of a decent, solidly-made thriller that wouldn't be particularly original even if it weren't a remake, but gets the job done.

It opens with Jessica (Jules Willcox) packing her stuff in a U-Haul and getting ready to move; not exactly sneaking out of town but not saying any long goodbyes; it's been a rough year. There's a little bit of weirdness on the road with an SUV that is going way below the speed limit and then riding her tail after she's able to pass. The same car shows up in the motel parking lot that night, with its driver (Marc Menchaca) coming up to apologize, which is kind of weird, but then she sees him broken down on the road, and then…

Well, let's just say that a guy doesn't have a room in his cellar with bars on the windows that locks from the outside if he hasn't done this before, and while that could be formidable, the film does not revel in Jessica's helplessness - it establishes the seriousness of the situation with Jules Willcox capturing how this situation is almost paralyzingly frightening, but the filmmakers quickly move on to the next stage of things. It's something the film does well throughout, so that even in the moments when Jessica has a brief advantage or chance to put some distance between her and her abductor, there's often a lingering force that threatens to freeze her even beyond the practical things that slow her down.

They also keep things moving and mixed up, making a bit a show of it; it's a film with chapter headings which assure the audience that there will likely be some change to the current status quo within a few minutes. With such a tight cast of characters who don't appear to have any previous connection and Jessica trying to stay away from her pursuer, they're each often working on their own, but do well regardless. Willcox manages different shades of being ill-at-ease from start to finish, while Marc Menchaca does well in having his character shift just a little bit as his nature becomes more overt - he's apparently done this enough to be assured, if cruel, rather than maniacal.

The film is generally nicely polished around them. Director John Hyams may not shoot his films himself the way his father did, but he and cinematographer Federico Verardi do frame the action nicely and create a stark palette that never feels unnatural. When the pair get separated, Hyams and company pretty honest with the audience rather than going for fake-outs or tricky cutting with time, and for the most part, the violence feels real and damaging, though things get a little iffy toward the end, suggesting dire consequences but dragging things out past that. Still, it mostly works.

It's funny, I opened a review of a similar film less than a week ago talking about what makes a film with this sort of extremely familiar template stand out. "Hunted" had striking visual style and and a willingness to go nuts in its last act; "Alone", in contrast, is solid and competent, probably in the upper half of movies with its basic storyline, though it likely won't be one's go-to film when you want to spend an hour and a half watching a woman flee her attacker through the woods.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=33622&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/30/20 06:57:23
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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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USA
  18-Sep-2020

UK
  N/A

Australia
  18-Sep-2020


Directed by
  John Hyams

Written by
  Mattias Olsson

Cast
  Jules Willcox
  Marc Menchaca
  Anthony Heald
  Jonathan Rosenthal



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