Anthony Heald

Fantasia Review: Alone

A widow packs up her belongings to get away and start a new life. While driving through the Pacific Northwest, she encounters a strange man again and again. This man kidnaps the widow, forcing her to fight for her life.

One of the most thrilling films to come out of Fantasia International Film Festival is Alone. Written by Mattias Olsson (Gone, Iris) and directed by John Hyams (Z Nation, Black Summer), the film follows recently widowed Jessica. To get away from the difficult memories of her husband, Jessica packs up and leaves the city. What begins as a close call on the road with a stranger quickly turns sinister when she keeps running into the same man on her drive. From the moment these two characters encounter each other there is immediate tension. As their encounters become more frequent and strange, the suspense grows to a fever pitch, leading to Jessica’s kidnapping. The plot is a classic tale of survival. It doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the survival subgenre, but it is still incredibly entertaining to watch and will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

There are two aspects of the plot that make quite an impact. The first is how the loss of Jessica’s husband seems to have better prepared her for escaping her kidnapper. Her husband’s death helped her realize to she wants to live, which makes her fight even harder to escape her captor and survive. The second aspect is showing how well serial killers divide their lives. The audience gets a small glimpse into the man’s home life away from his more murderous tendencies. It gives the film an authenticity because, as most true crime enthusiasts know, serial killers have a knack for leading double lives.

Alone includes great and memorable performances from the cast. Jules Willcox (Bloodline, Dirty John) plays Jessica. This character has suffered a tragic loss and is feeling grief, confusion, sadness, and guilt. Willcox conveys these complex emotions in Jessica while also showing her sheer will to live. Marc Menchaca (Homeland, Ozark) plays the man who kidnaps Jessica. This man gives off red flags right away. From his handlebar mustache and 80’s serial killer glasses to his forcefully polite demeanor, Menchaca makes it clear that this man is dangerous. The deadly dynamic between these two is enthralling to watch and makes for a wild ride. Honorable mention goes to Anthony Heald (The Silence of the Lambs, Deep Rising) as a helpful bystander named Robert.

The film relies on the gorgeous setting and minimal practical effects to create the lifelike feel of Alone. The Pacific Northwest is a gorgeous place, so not much had to be done to make sets come alive. Especially in the second half of the film, the dense green forest manages to be stunning while also giving the sense of closing in around Jessica. As for the practical effects, most of the effects are simple makeup looks to create bruising and minor wounds. There is one practical effect that is small, yet it is so shocking and painful to watch that audiences everywhere will cringe.

Alone is a white-knuckle thriller overflowing with suspense as a woman fights for her survival. It might not reinvent the wheel, but it’s a tense watch audiences are sure to love. Olsson and Hyams make a great filmmaking team with their film that will appeal to a variety of film lovers, especially serial killer fans. The performances are great from both Willcox and Menchaca and the subtle effects manage to make quite an impact. This is a film you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10