The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
A creepy murderer vs. a normal person who must adapt and survive; it's hard to make a simple, overdone premise like that feel unique and tense anymore. It's been done so many times in the past (recently in Unhinged with Russell Crowe) and has been done very poorly by many crappy rushed to theater "horror" movies just to make a quick buck. Alone takes this simple premise and infuses it with efficient filmmaking, smart storytelling, and a small cast of characters that you either root for or wish for their demise. What a huge surprise this movie was. Now, let me tell you why I loved it.
Director John Hyams (of the best Universal Soldier movie) is able to make us care for our main character, give enough depth to both her and our main villain, create multiple tense scenes, and make a thoroughly enjoyable and scary thriller in only 90 minutes. This is also impressive considering that there isn't a ton of dialogue in the movie, and it's a premise that has been done many times before, most of which are generic or bad (I'm looking at you The Silencing). He's able to ground the characters in a realistic environment while never going over the top with certain actions that you would expect from a lesser thriller. Terrific work, and it shows that as long as you have a focused director, an overdone premise like this can still work.
Alone follows Jessica (Jules Willcox), a recent widow who's trying to get her life back in order by moving out to the Pacific Northwest and starting over until she becomes the target of a sadistic serial killer (Marc Menchaca) who kidnaps her. Luckily, Jessica isn't a typical damsel in distress and quickly escapes into the woods where the two have a battle of survival which includes many tense scenes and injuries that will for sure make you squirm. God, I love an effective premise that doesn't waste time or treat the viewer like an idiot. This is such a solid way to tell this story. It is familiar but told in the best way possible and doesn't talk down to you. The pacing is fast but not too fast to lose focus on the tension and has an extremely satisfying conclusion. Rock-solid throughout.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I never watched Netflix's Bloodline before, but I might have to start because Jules Willcox is BADASS in this movie. She perfectly embodies this character who starts off fragile, scared, but not an idiot like a lot of characters in movies like this. She's a real person that has to overcome a truly terrifying situation, and the development of her character throughout the 90 minutes is fantastic! A lot of the time it's just her on the screen and she truly commands it. I also loved that the movie doesn't beat you over the head with her backstory; you have to learn it through Willcox's acting.
I have to also give huge kudos to Marc Menchaca who plays "The Man" that abducts and hunts her down, because he is a truly scary presence. His character starts as nice but a bit creepy, which doesn't help considering he looks like Ned Flanders throughout most of the movie, but when he ends up abducting Jessica, the facade is broken and he is a terrifying villain that not only abuses Jessica physically, but really toys with her mentally, and if done right, that's the scariest type of villain. He's very effective and not at all cartoony or over the top.
Besides those two, there aren't too many supporting characters at all. It's a film that focuses on our two main characters and I appreciate it immensely. There is one side character played by Anthony Heald, a great character actor, and he does a solid job in his small role, but that's about it.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
'Alone' Is The Biggest Surprise Of The Year So Far
This is a very realistic take on this premise so there isn't a ton of blood, gore, or big effects. It's a lot of hiding in the woods and using the elements to survive, and everything looked as it should've. There's a car accident scene that is practical and shot extremely well, and one pretty gruesome moment involving a stick, but that's all I'll say. Subtle but great stuff. No complaints from me.
Alone (2020) | VOD
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
A tense movie wouldn't be complete without a tense score to back it up, and that's mostly the case here. The score is minimal, which worked well for when it did come in and really emphasized a scene. The use of environmental sounds is what really surprised me. I knew the movie took place in the woods, but I'm used to movies not using this environment effectively. However, this film uses it to its full potential. The sounds of footsteps on leaves and sticks, wind, rushing water, and thunderous rain are the film's biggest positives in terms of the score because these added a sense of danger and even safety that no score could really replicate. It's funny that the last movie I reviewed was The Silencing which mostly failed on all accounts even though it also took place mainly in the woods.
Alone might be the biggest surprise of the year so far. It's an effective use of a simple premise that's beautifully shot, efficiently told, and powerfully acted by its two terrific leads. It's also one of the tensest movies this year. Probably the most tense I've been since 1917 (the movie, not the year), and that's always welcomed because I love being on the edge of my seat. Comparing it to Unhinged and The Silencing isn't exactly fair because Alone is WAY better than both of those movies combined.
Also, one last thing, did I mention this was a remake? Yeah. A remake of a movie that was supposedly not very good. So you can also add this to the very small list of remakes that were better than the original. Now if only they could've picked a less generic title. There's like 10 other movies with that title, and two of those come out this year. I'm not kidding.