REVIEW: Alone (2020)

dir. John Hyams.

Following the end of a relationship, Jess (Jules Willcox) packs up her belongings – or as much as will fit – into a U-Haul trailer and heads out of the city. She’s going North, looking for a new start, but after a near miss with another vehicle she starts to notice the other driver has taken an unhealthy interest in her, following her along the lonely country roads.

Part Duel (1971), part Jeepers Creepers (2001), director Hyams invokes the tight, claustrophobic dread of a woman alone in the wilds. Jess is no wallflower – conversations with her supportive father and bristly mum speak to her own strength – but as civilisation thins out to be replaced by looming trees and grey mountains there’s a sense that the safety net of other people is gradually stripped away. In an age where women are cautioned against walking down dark alleys at night, the entire world becomes a source of threat, a pair of headlights growing ever closer in the rear-view mirror.

Hyams has form a B-movie action director, with a couple Universal Soldiers to his name and credits on zombie series’ Black Summer and Z-Nation. Here the tone is perhaps more sombre, the aesthetic of deep and chilly forests recalling the moral and social isolation of Saulnier’s Hold the Dark (2018). So too Mattias Olsson’s script reaches for moments of thematic profundity, a grief in Jess’ past arguable pursuing her with the same bloodthirsty ardour as her perceived stalker.

Unfortunately the plot moves along a well-worn path, and though things are executed efficiently with moments of grace (in particular the gorgeous sound design of creaking trees, indifferent to the horrors beneath) they never fully kick into gear, failing to coalesce into the meditation on loneliness it almost reaches for, and might have been.

Tim Coleman

ALONE has its European Premiere at Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition on 7th October 2020.

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