We’ve seen so many variations on that “stalked on the highway” plot that it’s rare that one punches through and makes itself stand out.
The pulse-pounding third act of “Alone” puts it right up there with “Breakdown,” if not quite in realm of “Duel,” still the undisputed masterpiece of the genre.
And Jules Willcox, its star and motorist-in-distress, gives a performance of fear, injury, fury and rage that totally sells this.
She plays Jessica, a woman fleeing the big city in her Volvo wagon, U-Haul trailer tucked in behind. She didn’t even tell her parents she was leaving.
We don’t find out, right away, what she’s leaving behind. And we don’t really know where she’s going. But you know if it’s a highway stalker thriller she won’t be taking the Interstate.
Jessica does almost everything right. The jerk going one-third the speed limit on the mountain road she was on didn’t like being passed, and endangers her life. She doesn’t forget, even as he turns his Grand Cherokee onto another route.
Of course he (Marc Menchaca) tracks her down again. But she won’t open her window to accept an apology she and we know is insincere. Still, she talks to him. Her only mistake.
“Scared you a little bit…Where you going? You have a name?”
She moves on from this second encounter, and later, when he expects her to stop as he feigns a breakdown (with his arm in a sling), she’s not buying that either. But eventually, he gets the drop on her.
Volvo’s get lousy mileage, kids. And every time you stop for a smoke could be your last.
Assaulted, kidnapped and barefoot, Jessica can’t plead her way out.
“You can let me go. I won’t tell anybody.”
“You think you’re the first one to say that?”
She’ll have to use her wits and her inner resolve to escape this brute.
B-movie and TV director John Hyams keeps the film on its feet, makes great use of what look to be Canadian north woods locations and keeps the camera tight on Willcox (TV’s “Bloodline”), who finds her inner Carrie-Anne Moss with this ferocious turn. We root for her and fear for her and cling to the hope that every injury, every wrong done her will be repaid in blood and rage.
The Mattias Olsson script portentously titles chapters “The Road,” “The River,” etc. And he falls into the “talks too much villain” trap, filling the soundtrack with bad guy claptrap.
“You know what I can’t stand? COWARDS!”
But “Alone” still takes a simple premise and smacks us around with it for 95 reasonably suspenseful, thrilling minutes. And that’s enough.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence
Cast: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald
Credits: Directed by John Hyams, script by Mattias Olsson. A Magnet release.
Running time: 1:38