27th Aug2017

Frightfest 2017: ‘Alone’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sofia Lesaffre, Stéphane Bak, Jean-Stan Du Pac, Paul Scarfoglio, Kim Lockhart | Written by David Moreau, Guillaume Moulin | Directed by David Moreau

alone-poster

David Moreau, co-director of ILS/THEM, turns artist Bruno Gazzotti’s best-selling French/Belgian comic book Seuls into a sci-fi thriller of gaelic proportions… Sounds like a match-made in [French] heaven right? Well a part of that statement is right.

After going to a funfair the night before, Leila wakes up in an empty city. Where are her parents? Where has everyone gone? Thinking she must be the sole survivor of an unthinkable catastrophe, she wanders the weirdly deserted streets. Until she meets four other mystified strangers. Together they hole up at a plush hotel, and set out to understand what has happened, why they are surrounded by gigantic boiling clouds and what these apocalyptic events actually mean.

I’ve not read the graphic novel on which Alone is based, so not only I was headed into this story cold, but there was no way to know if, or how well, Moreau and co. stuck to the source material. Though by the time the credits rolled on the film, I did wonder whether Bruno Gazzotti’s original prose would have given me anymore insight into proceedings, as the film – to its credit and to its downfall, keeps you guessing right until the very end. Where it then goes completely off the rails, setting things up for what one would assume is a sequel..?

Do get me wrong, the central concept of Alone is solid. A bunch of kids wake up alone, eventually finding each other and becoming a family unit, all the while trying to figure out a) what happened and b) how to escape this hell-hole. Of course the film is not a simple as that core conceit, oh no, it takes the betwixt nature of the story in places it didn’t need to go.

At one point we’re introduced to a strange knife-weilding villain whom one of the kids recognises from one of his favourite comics – which, coupled with the fact that our heroine Leila, had spent the previous evening escaping from school, her friend and her family, heading for some “alone time” at the local fun fair had me thinking we could’ve been in for some strangely horrific wish-fulfillment horror – where each of our protagonists wishes were coming true; all buoyed on my the mysterious fog which is closing in on the city… Sadly that’s not the case. And also sadly, that would’ve made for a much more interesting film than we ultimately got.

That’s not to say Alone is a bad film – for the most part it’s an intruiging sci-fi horror but as the film progresses and more of the plot is revealed, the story starts to fall apart. I’m sure that on paper, in the original format, the story made for a fantastic action-adventure thriller but on-screen it all comes across as a hodge-podge of ideas that have been done before; and some would say done better (though that is up for debate). Without spoiling too much, the plot of a VERY popular TV show is recycled here and suffers the same probelms the show did – insomuch as the idea is sound but there are flaws in the overall plot. And nowhere more is that prevelant than in Alone‘s antagonists – both of whom don’t really contribute anything to this particular tale other than add even more danger for our cast of teens.

It’s hard to discuss the finer points of Alone without spoiling the films many twists, turns and reveals. However whilst they are plentiful, not all of the events that unfold contribute positively to the story. The villains – and the twist of who/what they are – could easily have been left out of the tale, leaving only the mysterious fog as the motivating factor for the films terror; we really, REALLY, didn’t need that ending – which seems only there to set up further [supernatural] adventures for Leila, Dodji, and co.; in fact Moreau could have ended his story at a high by ending at the fade to white before the final scene/epilogue and it would have been a much better, if still flawed, film.

Ultimately, Alone is a mix of a great idea, a great cast and great visuals, let down by a convoluted and messy story that should have ended long before it does.

**½  2.5/5

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