M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on September 18, 2020. Available On Demand & digital download from Magnet Releasing/Magnolia Pictures!
Directed by John Hyams
Written by Mattias Olsson
Starring Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald, Jonathan Rosenthal
While you wouldn’t know it by the kind of generic title and poster, ALONE is a bare bones story of survival. Relying on little dialog, the rich atmosphere of the California forests, and some extremely strong performances, this little film really packs a powerful punch.
As the film begins, Jessica (Jules Wilcox) is packing up a trailer and heading north. We don’t know why. But she seems determined to make this trip, even though the occasional call from her mother and father indicate that they disapprove of the long trip alone. What she doesn’t know is that on this trip, Jessica is in for the fight of her life.
While I don’t want to spoil a minute of ALONE, I will say that it is an intense and potent thriller that will keep you edging towards the end of your seat until you damn near fall off. The film has a simple cat and mouse structure where Jessica is being pursued by a nameless assailant (THE OUTSIDER and OZARK’s Marc Menchaca) for the bulk of the movie. Relying on the treacherous and gorgeous forested landscape rather than over-written script work, director John Hyams (who did some quite simple but effective episodes of the Netflix zombie series BLACK SUMMER) delivers a film that doesn’t need a lot of words to give it power. The volatile landscape and the violent man pursuing Jessica is the plot of many a film (last year’s RUST CREEK, for example), but ALONE never tries to be fancy with it. It peels away all pretention and delivers a primal story of Jessica’s force of will against the world around her.
There really are only two main characters (with SILENCE OF THE LAMBS’ Anthony Heald showing up for a few minutes of screen time). This leaves Wilcox and Menchaca to shine all the way through ALONE. Wilcox communicates how much of a survivor she is with simple emotional shots of her looking through old photos and moments where she zones out from the world around her—lost in the heaviest of thoughts. While we do find out why she is leaving on her road trip, I honestly don’t think ALONE really needed to give the viewer that info. And while little information is given about both Jessica and her pursuer, what we do see if enough to root for Wilcox’s Jessica to make it through this ordeal and Menchaca to get what he deserves. Menchaca adds another intense performance to his already formidable resume. Barely recognizable behind gold-rimmed glasses and a giant red moustache, Menchaca is creepy from the get-go and never stops being more and more so.
ALONE is a no frills, straight forward shocker that is sure to please any fan of action, intrigue, and terror. Even in the early scenes, before the chase begins, director Hyams is able to capture the intense fear a woman feels when by herself and in a situation out of her control. Don’t miss this simple, yet exquisitely powerful tale of survival and overcoming the elements be they man or nature.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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