14th Jul2021

‘Alone’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald, Jonathan Rosenthal | Written by Mattias Olsson | Directed by John Hyams

An English-language adaptation of Swedish thriller Gone, with a screenplay by from that films director Mattias Olsson, Alone is most-noticeable (well, at least for genre fans) as being helmed by John Hyams. The son of director Peter Hyams (2010, Capricorn One, The Presidio), John Hyams burst on to the action movie scene with a trio of movies between 2009 and 2012 featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme – with whom his father had worked in 1994/5 – all of which were fan-favourites and which, at the time, were seemingly Hyams’ calling card into bigger budget action fare. Only that didn’t happen.

Despite the warm reception afforded Universal Soldier: Regeneration and its follow-up Day of Reckoning AND the great reviews Dragon Eyes, a film that sought to launch the leading-man action career of Cung Le, received from critics and fans alike; Hyams has spent the intervening years in television, producing and directing the likes of zombie series Z Nation and its Netflix-based spin-off Black Summer, with his only feature being 2018’s little-seen black comedy All Square. But here he is, back behind the camera for Alone – an old-school cat and mouse horror set on the tree-lined roads of Oregon. A beautiful setting for a horrifying tale…

Jessica (Jules Willcox) drives on a long, lonely stretch of road in the Pacific Northwest. Attempting to rebound from a tragic loss, she’s packed up her belongings and is headed back to her hometown to restart her life. Also on this stretch of road is a Man (Marc Menchaca) who, at first, seems harmless enough, but keeps showing up in the same places as Jessica. But it’s no coincidence. The Man has hostile plans for her, and once in his clutches she has to fight her way out to safety somewhere in the Oregon wilderness, away from civilization, away from any help and away from the devious psychotic out to destroy her. She will have to face this in the cold and rain while injured. She will have to face this knowing that it will put anyone who helps her in harm’s way. She will have to face this not knowing why The Man chose her. She will have to face this while her life is already in pieces. She will have to face this and all of her fears at once. And she’ll have to face it all… Alone.

Told as essentially a series of vignettes, each with their own title card and each set in different locations and different situations, Alone is truly a stripped back horror film. It’s telling that Hyams has spent so much time in television, where time and budgets are tight. Here he brings that experience to the fore, crafting a tightly-paced terror tale; one that – like its sparse two-person cast – wastes very little when it comes to storytelling.

In terms of the cast, Alone may have two characters at its core but this film really belongs Jules Willcox. From the very first moments of the film, where her character Jessica is packing a U-Haul to begin her journey across the US, Willcox is never off the screen. We follow Jessica’s every move, we see her every emotion, we feel her every struggle. The way Willcox portrays her, a woman at first lost emotionally and psychologically (the reasons why we learn later in the film), becoming an woman who has inner strength, REAL inner strength, is a true joy to watch. She gives so much of herself to the role that you really feel for Jessica, as if you’re in this situation with her, not watching it play out. And when it came to the final showdown between Jessica and her hunter I felt like I was swinging every punch, every kick, as if I was fighting for her!

Besides its human cast, Alone also has a third character: the Oregon forest itself. An imposing force that stands between Jessica and her freedom. Hyams shoots the forest beautifully at times, with commanding drone shots rising to the sky showing the lush greenery. However on the ground, under the canopy of the trees branches, things are a very different story – the rough brush of undergrowth, the uneven forest floor, all are problems for Jessica to overcome… on top of the psychopath that is already hunting her! In fact the dichotomy between the beauty and the horror of the forest somewhat metaphorically reflects the relationship between Jessica and her kidnapper.

Blu-ray Special Features:

  • The Making of Alone
  • Feature Commentary by Director John Hyams – Courtesy of Rogue Commentary Podcast
  • John Hyams interview by Host Writer Jed Shepherd

Unfortunately whilst Alone has some fantastic aspects to it, especially in terms of visuals and performances, it is let down by the all-too-familiar plotting. We know where this is going from the get-go, there’s no surprises in terms of what ultimately happens; we’ve seen these types of films before and we know what to expect… yet despite all that, the journey is honestly well worth it.

***½  3.5/5

Alone is available on Blu-ray now from Signature Entertainment. Also check out our review of Alone from its digital release last December.

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