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[Fantasia] ‘Alone’ review: Menchaca’s performance highlights survival thriller

Too familiar?

Who has not been driving along and notices the same car every time they look in their rear view mirror? Are they following me? No one ever goes this way except me. Who are they and what do they want? Making its international premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, Alone begins with this familiar notion. Jessica Swanson is moving to a new city. She decides to make the move by herself. After a seemingly innocent lane change, a strange man begins following her.

The premise is scary by itself. Moving by yourself and running into the same person over and over is a frightening prospect. Alone ups the ante quickly. What starts off as a mystery as to why rapidly becomes a battle for survival. Marc Menchaca is downright frightening as The Man. Even in his absolute worst moments there does not seem to be any malice in what he does. He is soulless and sadistic and seems to be committing his acts just because he wants to.

The most terrifying scenes are the most quiet ones. Director John Hyams does an exceptional job of escalating the tension. One way is letting the scenes speak for themselves. Actions will play out without music or noise. The simple act of making a sandwich becomes tense. Alone is proof that movies do not have to be as loud as possible to maximize the drama. Which is not to say this is a quiet film. Like most thrillers, Alone has its share of loud moments. There are bangs, screeching cars, and loud screams. Overall, Hyams makes great use of sound in the movie.

Alone is visually impressive. Hyams takes full advantage of the Pacific Northwest setting. Even as Jessica battles the elements in what looks like a futile attempt to survive, it is impossible to not be awed by the sights. The movie is beautiful by default. The story is where some may find fault. The first act of Alone is a traumatic affair. Along with being genuinely scary, the movie will have audiences asking the right kinds of questions. Viewers are engaged when they are fearfully asking why something is happening.

[Fantasia] 'Alone' review: Menchaca's performance highlights survival thriller

As more is revealed about The Man, things turn to a different type of tension. Alone becomes a fight or flight movie. There is still the drama of Jessica trying to escape, but the fear is now gone. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it may be too sudden of a tonal change for some. Conversely, it also leads to some of the most satisfying moments of the film.

Alone does a great job of creating paranoia. The movie gives the impression that Jessica was alone even before the events of the story. As things progress, it becomes impossible to trust anyone. The audience will feel as isolated as Jessica. The film may be flawed, but it is definitely worth watching – as long as you have someone with you.

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