Review by Sean Boelman
The survival thriller is not a new genre, and John Hyam’s Alone doesn’t seem to recognize it, treating every beat as if it is something fresh and unique. Thanks to some amazing sound design and decent performances, the film isn’t a total waste, although it fails to accomplish even the most basic level of tension.
The movie follows a woman who, after being kidnapped by a cold-blooded killer, escapes into the woods and must fight against the elements and her captor in an attempt to survive. It’s a very basic set-up, but writer Mattias Olsson’s fatal sin is that he doesn’t do anything with it, resulting in a game of cat-and-mouse without much of a game.
One of the big issues here is that the film drags significantly. It takes too long for the protagonist to get kidnapped, and after that, it takes too long for her to escape. By the time exciting things start to happen in the final act, viewers will have already checked out due to the lack of suspense in the first two-thirds.
And then there is the fact that the movie feels very shallow. A message at the end of “you get what’s coming to you” feels tacked on and obvious, with the characterization leading up to that point contradicting the finale. Ultimately, it’s the type of material that would have fared much better with a woman filmmaker at the helm.
Much of the first twenty minutes are spent trying to develop the protagonist, and while she is sympathetic to an extent, the film also falls back on cliché way too often. For the most part, she’s a damsel in distress without anyone to rescue her. She’s running to find someone rather than fighting back, and it’s simply not a very compelling or unique story.
Jules Willcox gives a good enough performance in the leading role, but she isn’t given much to do. Marc Mencacha is fittingly menacing in his role, delivering the dialogue in a way that is on-the-nose but effective. That said, the dynamic between the two isn’t believable. There’s not enough tension between the two of them.
Visually, the movie is pretty average, stylistically similar to almost any other woodsy horror-thriller. But it is the sound of the film that stands out. The way in which the ambience is used to draw us into this world, and then create unease is wonderful. If only the script were as intensely-written as the soundscape.
Alone isn’t a poorly-made thriller, but it’s a largely unexceptional one. Minus some great use of sound — hinting that Hyams knows what he’s doing in the genre should he be given a better script — it’s likely one to skip.
Alone hits theaters and VOD on September 18.