Why don’t you come out and fight while you still can?Alone (2020)
I stan a genre zombie breakout show or movie. When it came out last year Black Summer was exactly the kind of programming I needed. What I noticed most about the series was how confident the storytelling and storytellers were. The bottle episodes specifically seemed to harness the grit and violence of early zombie projects. John Hyams the executive producer of the show and director of many of the series episodes was a name I familiarized myself with real quick. Enter Fantasia Fest 2020, and Hyams entry, the feature, Alone, which follows Jessica (Jules Willcox} through four different acts as she runs away from a sociopath billed only as Man (Marc Menchaca) she meets on a cross country journey.
The four act structure of the movie is what caught my eye initially. Broken into four different scenes, The Road, The River, The Rain, and The Clearing each moment feels like a short film. In The Road Jessica meets the strange man and initially doesn’t know what to think of him. There are scenes in this section of the movie that seem to hearken back to other great road horror classics like Duel or Joy Ride (that’s right I called it a classic, wanna fight about it). As we get to understand the menacing side of Marc Menchaca, our villain comes across like an evil version of a Jason Sudeikis character. He comes across slightly dopey but entirely too intense which helps build the tension in the early scenes. Jessica seems to lack confidence and that only helps make The Man feel even more menacing.
The next two parts, The River and the Rain move the chase out of the car and into a cabin and the river that runs by it. Menchaca abandons the goofy charade for a more organized malevolence that helps indicate just how much peril Jessica is in. Menchaca has become a household name in genre television with his role as James Griffin on Manifest and the terrifying Jack Hoskins in The Outsider. We can see his pent up violence just under the skin. The middle of the movie works because of this simmering violence and the overall pace of the film which never slows down, not even for a moment. Traditional chase movies may pause the action for a flashback which can provide necessary backstory but does so at the expense of the speed of the movie. We get none of that with Alone, and as a result we are out of breath and dizzy by the films final act.
The last act, The Clearing, both operates on a metaphorical level and a pragmatic one. Jessica and The Man have a final confrontation. Being mindful of spoilers I can tell you that the ending feels exceptionally satisfying. Where some movies may take smaller swings, or try and add nuance and complexity to a film’s ending Hyams does not shy away from a final fifteen minutes that is terrifying and exhilarating. In one word the entire film is satisfying. Jessica is scared but smart. The Man is sufficiently evil (he even has a mustache to twirl). The atmosphere described in each of the movies subheadings provide a backdrop for some truly exceptional horror. Alone is my favorite film so far at Fantasia Fest and with the support of Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing it will undoubtedly find the larger audience it deserves
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.