America feels more dangerous than ever. White supremacists plot armed rebellion in the hinterlands while activists on both sides of the political spectrum clash on city streets. But in horror movies, the milieu of the lonely, rural American highway has always existed as the playground for our cinematic maniacs. John Hyams’ competently directed new thriller, Alone, is a throwback to a time when what we saw on the screen was much scarier than real life. Sadly, that just isn’t true any longer.

Alone starts out strong, presenting itself as a quiet, atmospheric horror story that isn’t afraid of taking its time to unfold. We meet Jessica (Jules Wilcox) as she is packing a U-Haul trailer attached to her old Volvo wagon. She is leaving Portland, Oregon and, presumably, some sort of tragedy, based on the haste of her preparations. Once she is clear of the city and into the beautiful Oregon forest, a man (Marc Menchaca) driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee begins to menace her. At first, it appears to be an isolated incident of road rage, but as Jessica drives further and further from the city, she slowly discovers the awful intentions of the man.

Hyams films Jessica’s descent into hell with admirable economy. There isn’t much of a script. Just quiet stretches of deserted road and the slow-burn terror of watching Jessica drive towards danger. At first, we question whether the man means Jessica harm, so we’re learning as she does. By the time he abducts her, Hyams has allowed more than half the film’s lean running time to pass.

Luckily, Alone is more a suspense film than a horror film like Saw. Jessica is a capable protagonist and her abductor is given a thin, but believable, backstory that strips away any superhuman element that often mars similar movies. The bad guy is just a man, albeit a cruel one, which means escape is plausible for Jessica, who flees into the forest sans shoes and must also fight off the elements.

Despite its beauty, the back half of Alone descends into predictable cliché. During her escape, Jessica encounters a solitary hunter who offers her help. You know things aren’t going to end well for him. By the time Jessica and her abductor meet for a final confrontation, both of them realize it is a fight to the death. Hyams films this final brawl well, but it feels at odds with the quiet suspense that takes up the movie’s first section.

Alone may not bring anything new to the table, but it is an effective entry into the canon of similar films. The gore and violence are kept to a minimum. We see worse violence on the evening news. There is almost something quaint about Alone. What a strange thing to say about a movie about an abduction.

Summary
May not bring anything new to the table, but it is an effective entry into the canon of similar films.
67 %
Almost Quaint
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