September 18th, 2020
STARRING: JULES WILLCOX, MARC MENCHACA, ANTHONY HEALD
DIRECTED BY: JOHN HYAMS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
One week before I watched Alone I was mildly entertained by Russell Crowe’s work in Unhinged. The Oscar winner’s performance was a wild expression of rage and anger. After that, it was a bit one note. Entertaining but in a similar way to the brief satisfaction of seeing a watermelon smash on concrete. Having more emotional stake in things, might be a reason why I loved John Hyams’ Alone more. It’s a movie that allows the audience to often feel a deeper connection with the lead character. Jules Willcox stars as Jessica, a timid, but strong woman, moving out of New York, and headed somewhere to get away from her past. At first you think this could be another road rage horror, which then twists and turns at every point. The thrills transform from a narrative about escaping an attacker, to survival skills in the woods, and a person’s fight to live. I was impressed with all of it, because Alone is a thrill ride that has you sweating till the very end.
Jessica packs up her car and starts out on the road. It’s obvious something is on her mind. She’s distraught, but ready to get on her way, escaping whatever it is she is leaving behind. As the ride becomes comfortable, Jessica attempts to pass a car that is going too slow on the highway, but when she speeds up, so does the driver, causing her to nearly crash with a truck in the opposite lane. She’s shocked and makes it to her destination, stopping at a hotel to rest along the way. To her surprise, the car that nearly killed her is parked at the same hotel, and the driver (listed in the credits as “Man”, played by Marc Menchaca) approaches Jessica to “apologize”. There’s something strange about him and his questions to Jessica give off a creepy vibe that would send off alarms to anyone with a pulse. They go their separate ways, but Jessica’s worries are just getting started where this guy just won’t stop following her every move.
When you think about thrilling genre films, dealing with a singular character, and a compact synopsis of action, what you are hoping for is an added spice of depth to make a simple premise deeper than a puddle. That needed depth arrives in the performance from Jules Willcox. We always buy that this is a character with wounds and scars in her past, so it is important that her performance reveals an authenticity in her face and within her physical fight for survival. As we learn about Jessica’s past traumas, her killer instinct, like a mama bear protecting her cubs kicks in. That sense of human emotions is exactly what you get from Willcox. It should also be mentioned that Marc Menchaca’s work, playing the reserved, mysterious man, looking like a sadistic version of Ned Flanders, will certainly send chills down your spine. Those two performances are the topping on a production and premise, written by Mattias Olsson, and direction from Hyams that never loses energy. Once our hero hits the road the narrative never turns back. She braces against the elements of rain and mud, finds a way to get out of being tied up in a dungeon, and never quits when it seems impossible.
Those are just the attributes on display from Willcox’s character, but it’s even more fascinating when you find out that the actor from Lancaster, Missouri broke her foot during the production and kept going. A story like that is always cool, but it’s even better when the final product is incredibly thrilling. The third act is where Jessica escapes from the mystery man, which quickly turns into a Rambo style fight in the forest. There are plenty of other movies that you might compare Alone with. The recent Kevin James thriller Becky was similar, only it was Home Alone in the woods. Bird Box was about survival in the woods without the sense of sight. Those are all good examples, but they were all missing the cat and mouse element, which Alone does perfectly.
Alone is a relentless thriller, with an excellent three act structure, and each part raising the stakes as the end draws closer. Hyams continues to rise in the ranks of action directors. His previous work on Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and Universal Soldier: Regeneration proved he could still turn out entertaining stuff with 80’s legend Jean-Claude Van Damme. Now he is making Jules Willcox a sparkling new action movie star. Alone is a bad ass movie and it will stay with you for a long time.
ALONE IS AVAILABLE ON DEMAND THIS WEEKEND
Written by: Leo Brady