Jules Willcox stars as Jessica, a grief-stricken young widow who packs up her life venturing away from the city. As she drives down the winding country roads, true horror awaits when she crosses paths with a dangerous and mysterious man with a nefarious agenda. A high-octane cat and mouse game ensues as Jessica fights for her life alone in the wilderness, in this intensely gripping survival horror.
Directed by John Hyams, and written by Mattias Olsson, Alone presents a familiar premise with an impressive execution, sincerely accomplishing cleverly crafted suspense techniques that prove effectively nail-biting. The film rides high on the tension of the scenario at hand, teasing endless possibilities of what trajectory it could take. Alone skilfully avoids the tropey trappings that similar films of the psychological thriller/stalker horror usually fall into, heightening the intensity while allowing for a refreshing take on the sub-genre.
Alone is slow-paced, to begin with, using visuals and little to no dialogue to establish its protagonist. It does feel slightly off-putting, leaving the viewer wondering if the film is going anywhere, however it is completely worth sticking with as once Jessica’s ordeal begins, you won’t be able to catch your breath back until the film reaches its end.
Mattias Olsson has written the film episodically, breaking down the action into chapters relating to Jessica battling the elements to survive as she is stalked by her captor. This style of narrative allows the audience to remain invested as it feels like each segment of the film is reaching towards a goal in the story.
Jules Willcox is outstanding in the lead role, authentically portraying Jessica as a broken woman, who has endured the worst kind of personal pain but remains a fighter. The elements that make Jessica so compelling is that she does all she can to protect herself from the beginning, not making it easy for her captor to catch up with her, engaging the viewer in where her story arc will end up. Willcox’s performance secures that the audience will remain firmly on her side throughout as she experiences unspeakable torment and terror. Jessica is smart and resourceful, which allows the film not to create contrivances in the plot, making events interesting to follow, setting it apart from expected clichés that the genre regularly takes.
Marc Menchaca is excellently cast as ‘the man’. Keeping him anonymous is a smart tactic. It is utterly terrifying as he follows Jessica along the remote roads, determined to capture her for unknown reasons. Later revelations about the character prove jaw-dropping, bringing in an interesting dimension to the heinous character. Menchaca is menacing and sinister, playing a complex villain, who could be your everyday regular guy. What makes the scenario so alarming is that it isn’t out of the realms of reality and something that has/could happen in real life. It’s a cautionary tale to keep your wits about you, which Jessica does temporarily achieve, however, it is scary to know that there are people like, “the man” lurking out there, waiting to strike when presented with an opportunity.
Shot in Portland, Oregon, Alone relishes in the chance to showcase the breath-taking scenery the area has to offer. Cinematographer, Federico Verardi captures the stunning locations with beautiful aerial shots. Despite the looming horror, there is so much captivating imagery on show that brings a heart to the location while juxtaposing the unsettling nature of Jessica’s ordeal.
Featuring masterful tension, edge of the seat suspense, and a heart-pounding sound design, Alone is an unwavering, powerful thriller combined with ordeal horror, that is consistent, incredibly written, and subversive in its storytelling choices and character dynamics, supported by layered and gripping performances at the forefront. Hyams proves that a familiar concept can be revived successfully by taking it in an innovative direction.
Alone will open Manchester’s Grimmfest Online Edition on Wednesday 7th October, receiving its European premiere, and is the most thrilling way to begin five frightful days of horror move brilliance.