Sunday, February 14, 2021

Love Lorn and Love Scorn: He Knows You're Alone (1980)

He Knows You're Alone (1980)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Don Scardino, Caitlin O'Heaney, Elizabeth Kemp 

Released early into the 80s golden age of slasher flicks, He Knows You're Alone opens with a scene we're familiar with: a parked car in the woods, its guy and girl occupants busy Frenching each other. The girl hears something outside, prompting her partner to step out to investigate only to go quiet. Too quiet. It isn't long before the girl gets uncomfortable and, after looking around the car on her own, finds her boyfriend strung up upside down on a tree, dead. And just as our masked slasher makes an appearance to give chase at our reasonably hysterical gal, another girl blocks the screen and goes down into the bathrooms before any of us could yell 'Down in front!'

So it turns out the backwoods shenanigans is a film within our film, one that's a bit too much for the bathroom gal we're focusing for now as she ends up feeling really uneasy whilst doing her business in the ladies' room. This slight paranoia is soon to be validated when, returning just in time to join her friend catch a crucial moment in their movie, the girl is stabbed in the back by a sweaty man with a knife, her agonized scream masked by the theater's roar of jovial laughter and shock by what they're seeing on screen. But not for long...

The murder is soon discovered and on the case is one Detective Gamble, who learns that the girl was to be wed a few weeks from now and this fact prompts him to correctly assume this is the work of a psycho he's obsessed on catching for years, a serial bride killer named Ray whose killcount includes Gamble's own late would-be spouse. As Gamble investigates and deduce Ray's current whereabouts, our maniac catches a bus ride away from his fresh kill and coincidentally stops the next morning nearby our leading bride-to-be Amy, who plans to hang around and have fun with her friends and family while her fiancé Phil celebrates his last days as an unwed man at a faraway log cabin with his buddies.

Behind the smiles and all that gushing over her engagement though, we come to find out Amy's having seconds thoughts on tying the knot completely with Phil and its a conflict stemming from the matter that she still has feelings for her lovable goofball ex Marvin. Sure enough, her former lover shows up here and there, begging her to marry him instead with Amy's friends Nancy and Joyce, as well as Amy's own kid sister agreeing he's a better match for her than her current potential future hubby. The more she thinks this over, the more she starts to notice a prowling man popping up wherever she goes however, just a few feet away or hiding among the crowd. 

As you would've guessed, Ray, made aware of Amy's bridal commitment, has chosen to terrorize this girl and whoever else involved with her big day next. Will Amy come to a decision just in time before she's stabbed full of holes by a bride-hating loon? Will Detective Gamble piece it all together to stop Ray's latest slay-a-thon and put a full end to his terror? And oh my gods, is that young Tom Hanks in a slasher flick?!

In substance, He Knows You're Alone doesn't swing too far out from a standard and linear slasher narrative: we have a killer on the loose and cops are after them, all the while we watch a cast of characters live their lives, anticipating cathartic losses through their demises under the hands of said killer. It's a simple horror plot with simple murders, its violence tamed to just knife stabbings and offcamera deaths (save for one that went an extra mile) with the film focusing more on a good amount of character interactions and plot build-up. With a hokey B-grade flavor to it, the film's genuine sense of warmth and fun from our casts of friends and desperate lovers is a welcome treat found within the movie's writing and scripting, both cheeky, naughty and cheesy yet still somehow achieving a level of sympathetic care and development in its story and characters. 

Any scares and thrills this movie has to offer are handled through Halloween (1978)-inspired camera work wherein the killer appears to menace and/or observe from a distance before disappearing into crowds or is just be completely gone altogether, and too the well-paced and crafty stalking scenarios that can get real intense. Our killer here, uncomplicatedly named Ray, may be your typical textbook example of a random bonafide nutcase seemingly snapped into silence and bloodlust, but he has the physical presence to be intimidating despite looking like your everyday fellow out in the streets. There are moments where the shocks and creep factor doesn't work, but the film practically plays every clichés a slasher title is known and picked apart for, so there's still some slice of hammy enjoyment bound to be found and experienced here. (Like watching our final girl try to avoid death by retreating into her own sweater as the killer looms closer, or seeing young Tom Hanks play a small role here as a psych major dating one of the characters!)

Though not by any means a great movie, He Knows You're Alone (1980) is an entertainment piece that's good enough to be one's mini cult classic of sorts. It's well-written, fairly acted and amazingly fun in its simplistic approach, well worth watching overall, just maybe not around your beloved's bachelorette and/or stag night~!

1 male found murdered (film)
1 female hacked to death with a sickle (film)
1 female knifed in the back
1 female stabbed to death with a switchblade (flashback)
1 male stabbed with a pair of shears
1 female found murdered
1 male knifed to death
1 female had her throat cut with a knife, decapitated
1 male stabbed on the chest with a knife
Total: 9

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