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  Alone Shake Him Off
Year: 2020
Director: John Hyams
Stars: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald, Jonathan Rosenthal
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jessica (Jules Willcox) needs to get away from it all. In fact, she needs to get away right now, before her parents arrive at the apartment she stayed in with her husband who isn't around anymore - she just can't stand confrontation, not on that subject. So she hires a trailer, hitches it to the back of her car, and fills it with her belongings, apart from her pot plant which proves too big to fit in with the rest of it and has to be left at the side of the road. If this is symbolic, she does not dwell on it, and soon she is driving North to Oregon, maybe not one hundred percent sure of where she is heading, but definitely sure she has to escape. But escaping will be difficult...

Alone was an American remake of a Swedish film, Gone, from 2011, which had impressed a subsection of the small amount of people who saw it, but evidently did not make the impact of a calling card as its writers and director Mathias Olsson and Henri JP Akesson would have hoped given they didn't really follow it up. Or rather, they did, with this American-set, closely imitating remake, operating on script and producing duties and hiring director John Hyams to helm, a talent who had done plenty of television but was best known movie-wise for the low budget sequel Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, which in the straight to disc/streaming market had been well-thought of.

It was likely Alone would have the same fate, admired by a smaller yet dedicated audience than, say, your average big studio effort, and given it had the misfortune to be released during the Covid-19 crisis, not many were going to be able to appreciate the excellent, expansive cinematography of Federico Verardi on the biggest screen available unless they'd caught it at a drive-in. In those territories where the outdoor showings had not really taken off for whatever reason (weather, mostly), streaming was your best bet, but what it boiled down to was this was well worth your time if all you wanted was a nuts and bolts, unpretentious thriller with action sequences.

Granted, it was not an original concept, and you can more or less guess where it was going the moment Jessica gets stuck behind a slowcoach in an SUV on those Oregon forest roads, mainly because the driver (Marc Menchaca) initially acts like a fool, then a danger, then starts following her about trying to apologise. She may be grieving, but she knows a creep when she sees one, and these opening stages were a neat summation of how a man who visits unwanted attention on a woman can be more than a nuisance. Indeed, he can be a threat, and you didn't have to be female to pick up on the driver's menace under the guise of trying to help out. Jessica does her best to shake him off, but he's a persistent bugger, determined to be part of her life despite her giving off every signal short of yelling at him that she's not interested.

Menchaca, who with his conservative glasses frames and soup-strainer moustache could just as easily have played a milquetoast yet exudes a sinister quality with ease, may not have had much character development to work with, but he didn't need to, so when his villain's plan comes to fruition it's our nightmares coming true for the harassed heroine. We don't find out much about him even in the late stages other than he's a family man not unlike the one in the Dutch cult favourite The Vanishing, which was also remade by its original instigators, to disastrous effect, unlike this little item which went about its task of edge of the seat suspense with ruthless efficiency. Jessica was no helpless woman at the mercy of the big, bad wolf, she was resourceful within reason, and Willcox built a persona who was no superwoman, yet had by her husband's fate found an unexpected force to survive, and that made her easy to support. With the bad guy one of the plainest examples of entitled vileness of his kind, you kept watching to see if he got his comeuppance. Did he? Keep watching... Music by Nima Fakhrara. Interesting credit spot: The Simpsons' Yeardley Smith was a producer on this.

[Signature Entertainment presents Alone on Digital HD from December 28th 2020.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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