An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at 2020’s Alone
A woman (Jules Willcox) looking to start over is stalked on a road trip by a stranger (Marc Menchaca) who has kidnapped and killed before.
Is it Scary?
Alone is tense. There are no jump scares but the movie isn’t trying to scare you in that way, it’s main goal is to create a suspenseful nail-biting 90 minutes and, for the most part, it does exactly that. Unless you’re on a road trip alone, you won’t be terrified.
The film opens with our main character Jessica (played by Jules Willcox) packing up her stuff into a pretty small U-Haul. Specifically, it’s a 4’ by 8’ cargo trailer… I googled it because I was unsure if those actually existed.
Jessica sets off on her journey and we hear her GPS say it’s going to take four days to get to her destination. Given that this is a movie involving a kidnapping, I’m sure it’ll take a bit longer than that.
After the title screen, we get another title card which I’m assuming will divide the movie into chapter-like portions. This first one is called “The Road”.
After several hours on the road with no other cars in sight, a jeep going a bit too slow appears in the distance. Jessica catches up pretty quick and is forced to drive on the oncoming lane to go around. The moment she does, a truck comes around the bend in the oncoming lane and she needs to move back to the other lane. But, clearly on purpose, the jeep speeds up, blocking her.
At the last second Jessica is able to speed up and cut off the jeep just as the truck barely misses her. Following that close call, the jeep speeds up to Jessica and the driver starts honking their horn like an asshole. Eventually, the road splits off and the jeep drives off with us never seeing who is driving.
That night while Jessica is gassing up, she calls her dad and we find out her parents were supposed to help her move but she left early in order to avoid her mom. Meanwhile, as she’s talking to her dad, we see the jeep from earlier drive up and slowly drive past.
Later Jessica is now in a motel and ignoring calls from her mom. We also see her swiping through pictures of her and who I presume is/was her husband as she breaks down crying.
The following morning Jessica gets into her car and guess what freaking car is parked just a few spots away? That’s right, the jeep except, this time, she’s approached by the driver (played by Marc Menchaca) who knocks on her window while Jessica isn’t looking, giving her a jump scare. He then plays the “Oh did I scare you?” card despite seeing her jump in her seat.
Although he apologizes for almost getting her killed the day before, he gives her some obviously made-up excuses for it. Jessica, visibly uncomfortable, tells him it’s not a big deal and says she has to go. Despite this, the stranger does the creepy trifecta asking Jessica if she lives in the area, what her name is, and where she’s going.
The director does a good job of framing both Jessica and the stranger with some close-up shots to make you uncomfortable. After giving the stranger some vague answers Jessica drives off with the stranger ominously saying he’ll see her around.
A little while later while driving down a road, Jessica spots the stranger blocking the road with his hood up. Since he’s pulled over directly in the center it’s pretty clear he purposely stopped there and is faking car trouble. Jessica, in a smart move, locks her car door and attempts to drive around but the stranger steps in front.
He approaches her passenger door and she rolls down the window just a smidge. He tells her his car just died and asks for a lift to the nearest gas station but, first, wants her help to move the car meaning he wants her to get out.
To justify the request he shows her that his right arm is in a sling and needs help. This doesn’t work since, at this point, who hasn’t seen the never-ending Ted Bundy documentaries and movies on Netflix.
Jessica offers to call a tow truck for him and call a gas station to send someone but the stranger rejects both. In another smart move, she tells him she’s late for a meeting and drives around him.
It’s not the best excuse but when there’s a stranger trying to get you out of your car, you say whatever comes to your mind first and drive.
That night at a rest stop, Jessica has a cigarette and finally gives her mom a call. In the distance we see a guy stop by a light near the bathroom and start texting. We also see another guy outside his car, checking a map, and then heading to the bathroom.
The director purposely focuses on these guys in order to create tension and it works. Since we can’t see their faces we can’t be sure they’re not the stranger. We also can’t be sure they don’t work for the stranger or that everyone isn’t involved in some kidnapping ring.
We do get confirmation they’re not the stranger when, a moment later, his jeep pulls into the rest stop and Jessica spots him. She quickly gets off the phone and rushes to her car. The stranger rushes out of his car and tries to approach her but she’s able to drive away. Unfortunately, before she can leave the rest stop, a van blocks her way and the stranger catches up accusing her of almost running him over.
Instead of entertaining this bullshit, Jessica drives off swerving around the van. A little while later while she’s driving she spots a car coming up behind her and calls the police thinking it’s the stranger. It’s a pretty tense scene but the car eventually catches up and drives around her continuing on. Jessica tells the operator it’s a false alarm and hangs up.
Sometime later while still driving in the dark, Jessica loses control of the car and has to pull over into a ditch. Checking the tires of her car and the U-Haul, she discovers one of the tires has been slashed.
Down the road we see the lights of the car appear and thanks to the dramatic sting sound effect along with the sudden music, we know it’s the stranger this time. Jessica quickly detaches the U-Haul and jumps into her car, attempting to start it.
Meanwhile, the stranger’s jeep pulls up next to her and he gets out wielding a tire iron. Also, no arms are in any slings! Using the tire iron, he breaks Jessica’s window and opens the door. The two struggle but he’s able to overpower her, punch her, and inject her with a sedative.
We fade to black and a new title card pops up showing us it’s the next chapter, The River. The following morning Jessica wakes up barefoot in an empty basement with a barred window.
Looking through the gap at the base of the door, she doesn’t see anyone but hears someone walking on the floor above. The person goes outside and Jessica yells out to them. They approach the window and it’s revealed to be the stranger who tells her to shush. I don’t know what she expected.
That night the stranger enters the basement and approaches Jessica. She begs him to let her go and offers him money if he does so. She also promises she won’t tell anyone about the whole thing. The stranger smiles and calmly asks if she thinks she’s the first one to say that. At this point, I could only think “fuuuuuuuuuuck”.
The stranger tells her to take her clothes off and Jessica asks if she can use the bathroom first. He allows her but when Jessica instead tries to make a run for it, he slams her against the wall. He pins her down and taunts her by playing videos of Jessica and her husband he found on her iPad.
We find out Jessica’s husband killed himself and she found his body. The situation being the catalyst for her moving away from their old home. It appears the stranger is trying to break Jessica down mentally and after she starts crying, he leaves, locking the door behind him.
The following morning Jessica wakes up to the sound of the stranger’s jeep starting up and she rushes to the door to attempt to open it. Seeing the key in the lock, she pulls a nail out of one of the beams, pushes her sweater under the gap of the door, and uses the nail to push the key out and onto her sweater on the other side. She then pulls her sweater from under the gap with the key and unlocks the door. Fucking brilliant.
Jessica carefully heads up the stairs and we see that she is in an isolated cabin in the woods. Entering the kitchen she sees the stranger walking into the cabin and she rushes to hide in a closet near the front door.
The stranger enters and sits at the table preparing himself a snack while he makes a phone call. Turns out the stranger has a wife and child who believe he is on a business trip that I’m pretty sure isn’t supposed to be about the logistics of kidnapping and murder. Jessica hears the entire conversation as she hides in the closet waiting for an opportunity to run.
The stranger ends his phone call and heads downstairs. The moment he is out of sight, Jessica jumps out of the closet and out of the front door, running into the forest. Moments later, the Stranger leaps out of the cabin and gives chase.
Jessica gains some distance but she trips and, since she is barefoot, a stick lodges itself into her foot. In a pretty wince-inducing moment she has to pull the stick out of her foot as she screams in pain. Maybe I have a problem with foot trauma because I hate that scene so very much.
Jessica continues running, more like hobbling, until she reaches a dangerous-looking rushing river. The stranger is able to catch up to her and the two have a Fugitive-like stand-off. Jessica does her best Harrison Ford impression and jumps into the rushing waters.
Downriver, Jessica pulls herself out of the water and we start a new chapter; The Rain. Some time later Jessica is limping through the forest using a tree branch as a walking stick when she hears someone coming up behind her.
Thinking it’s the stranger, she hides behind a tree and swings her walking branch hitting the approaching person directly in the chest, knocking them to the ground.
The person is revealed to not be the stranger but instead, a hunter named Robert (played by Anthony Heald). Upset that he just got knocked on his ass for merely walking, he points his hunting rifle at Jessica and asks what the fuck is going on. Jessica tells him about the stranger and asks to use his phone. Unfortunately when Jessica hit him with the branch, it hit his phone, breaking it.
Robert offers to help her and brings her to his car where he gives her a pair of boots that belong to his wife. As they drive off, he gives her food and water. It’s clear Jessica is hesitant to trust him but she happily eats and drinks the food.
Robert tries to reassure Jessica that the stranger is long gone but Jessica isn’t sure. The two come upon a tree blocking the road and Jessica immediately thinks it was put there by the stranger. Freaking out, Jessica gets out of the car and tries to move it but even with Robert’s help, it doesn’t budge.
The stranger’s jeep drives up and Robert tells Jessica to stay back by the tree so he can handle it. The stranger gets out of the car and claims Jessica is his sister who is having mental issues after her husband died.
The stranger tells him he just got off the phone with the police and asked them to call off the search. He also says this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Jessica denies the claims but Robert is unsure of who to trust.
The stranger approaches Jessica and grabs her as she struggles to push him off. She yells out to Robert to ask for his phone to confirm his claim about speaking to the police. She then punches the stranger in the face and is able to run off.
Before the stranger can chase after her, Robert points his rifle at him and demands he stop. Agreeing with what Jessica said, he asks to see the stranger’s phone. The stranger goes to hand Robert his phone but instead tackles him and beats him severely. He then grabs the rifle and shoots him dead.
Thunder sounds as rain starts to come down. We see Jessica running through the forest and the stranger looking for her, now armed with Robert’s rifle. A new chapter starts, The Night.
Sometime later, Jessica hides out in a small cave as the stranger nears her area.
Thinking he’s turned away, Jessica makes a break for it but is shot in the shoulder. She falls to the ground but is able to crawl and hide in the tall grass of the forest. Eventually, she finds a small pond and sinks herself into it while she watches the Stranger from afar.
Knowing she’s somewhere near, the stranger tries to provoke her into coming out by offering to fight her fairly as he puts the gun down. Fair my ass, she’s food and water deprived, had a stick through her foot, was tossed around in rushing waters, and was shot in the shoulder. No fight is going to be ‘fair’.
The stranger yells out calling her and her husband cowards. He continues to berate her by blaming her for her husband’s suicide but Jessica stays hidden.
The stranger eventually gives up and leaves with the rifle. Jessica crawls out of the pond and wanders through the forest until she passes out. We then get a new chapter; The Clearing.
The following morning Jessica wakes up and continues her journey through the forest until she hears the engine of a car nearby. This woman has the absolute worst luck because it’s the fucking jeep and the stranger.
Watching from afar, she watches as the stranger pulls Robert’s body out of his jeep and drags him to a hole he’s dug nearby. Jessica sneaks her way to the car and enters the driver’s seat but doesn’t find his keys because of course he has them with him! Searching through the car she finds his phone and has to crawl into the trunk before the stranger gets back in.
As the stranger drives, Jessica calls the police on the phone and tells them to trace the call. The stranger notices his phone is missing and stops the car to search. Realizing that it’s only a matter of time before the stranger checks the trunk, Jessica grabs the tire iron and hits him across the head with it.
The stranger slams on the gas as the two struggle with Jessica getting a few more good hits on him. As he continues to drive, the stranger pulls out a hunting knife and tries to stab Jessica. She’s able to disarm him by slamming the tire iron onto his arm and using the knife to stab him in the arm.
Screaming out in pain the stranger loses control of the car and flips it down a hill. Jessica crawls out of the car with the tire iron and falls onto the mud where she sees a police helicopter fly by. She follows it to a clearing but it appears to leave without having seen her.
Knowing the stranger is on his way, Jessica pulls out his phone and calls his wife.
Jessica asks if she knows where her husband is and she responds that he is on a business trip. We find out the stranger’s name is Sam and Jessica reveals to her that Sam is a kidnapper and murderer. Sam makes his way into the clearing with a knife in hand just as his wife asks to speak with him thinking it’s a joke.
Jessica assures her it’s not a joke and puts her on speaker. Jessica yells out her name and says if she ends up dead it’s because Sam did it. Sam’s wife continues to yell out to Sam to answer her asking what is going on. Jessica throws the phone to him and he tells his wife he just needs to take care of something as he hangs up.
The two then prepare to fight to the death. CUE THE ROCK MUSIC!
Sam lunges at Jessica but she dodges and swings the tire iron striking him in the side and dropping him to the ground. Both on the ground, she misses several subsequent swings but is able to land one directly into his face causing him to drop the knife. Jessica crawls on top of him, trying to stab him with the sharp end of the tire iron but he punches her in the stomach and starts to choke her.
Flipping her onto her back, Sam punches her, seemingly knocking her out, and then grabs the knife. As he is about to stab her, she kicks him off. Jessica grabs the tire iron and hits him a few more times but Sam is able to stab her in the leg.
Jessica falls back and before Sam can stab her again she pushes him away and bites his shoulder where the crash ripped open his jacket. Jessica rips off a chunk of his skin and as he yells out in pain, she grabs the knife and stabs him in the chest.
As he lies dying, he looks over at Jessica who is staring at him with a crazed look on her face showing him she is not afraid.
The film ends as the helicopter returns and starts to land near Jessica.
Alone is great, it’s a well-acted, well-paced, simple suspenseful movie. It’s mainly due to the acting from both leads that the movie works so well. There’s not a lot of dialogue, especially from Jules Willcox’s Jessica since she’s mainly hiding or running for most of the movie but, her body language and facial expressions more than make up for it. Marc Menchaca perfectly portrays a sinister stranger who slowly loses his bravado as the movie goes on.
The only real downside to Alone, that I can think of, is that it is a very simple minimalistic movie. You have character A trying to escape character B and that’s it. There’s barely any character development, no real character arc, nothing to really make you care about the main character other than something bad is happening to her.
We never learn what the issue Jessica has with her mother is, she doesn’t outwardly appear to stop blaming herself for her husband’s suicide (if she ever even did), and her character doesn’t grow throughout the course of the movie.
While this is usually a negative in most movies, because Alone is paced well and it’s really a movie about good versus evil, you don’t really notice it. It also doesn’t really matter since we’re not asked by the movie to really care about the characters, we’re only asked to care about what is right and wrong.
Sam is the evil trying to destroy the good innocent Jessica and you want good to prevail. Does that simplicity make a bad movie? Sometimes, but not in this case.
Alone is a nerve-racking somewhat predictable movie that I definitely recommend.