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Monday, September 12, 2016

HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE


     An 80's slasher that's really grown on me over the years is HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE, released in 1980. Yes, it was Tom Hanks' feature film debut and generally known as a low-budget HALLOWEEN clone, but the film actually is somewhat better than its reputation and has some charm to it. Following the massive success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH, many filmmakers responded and wasted no time in churning out tons of imitators- some great, others terrible.  I'd say HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE is one of the better imitators.


        Detective Len Gamble (Lewis Art) is hot on a manhunt for deranged Ray Carlton (Tom Rolfing). Seems a bride-to-be Marie (Robin Tilghman) is murdered in a movie theater and Detective Gamble immediately suspects Ray Carlton, who three years prior murdered his ex-girlfriend and who just happened to be Detective Gamble's fiance. She was killed on their wedding day, and apparently ole' Ray has a thing for killing brides before their nuptials, and has spent the last three years doing just that.


     While all this nasty bride-killing is going on, our heroine, Amy Jensen (Caitlin O'Heaney) is yet another bride-to-be who is spending her last free week with her friends, Joyce (Patsy Peasy) and Nancy (Elizabeth Kemp) while her fiance is out of town. In time-honored slasher fashion, crazed Ray sets his murderous sights on Amy and her friends, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake.


     HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE was the brainchild of tv movie director Armand Mastroianni, and it's downright obvious while watching that Armand probably stole way too much from John Carpenter's 1978 classic. Even the music is a bit too close for comfort- but despite all that, I really enjoy HKYA. It comes across as much more classy and polished than most of the post-FRIDAY THE 13TH imitators, for one. Making the heroine a bride-to-be is a clever twist, and for once it's not horny teenagers getting offed- we're dealing here with young adults trying to find their place in the world. It's refreshing to see something other than horny teens being slaughtered.


     HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE is well-written and assuredly directed. And the cast comes off as quite likable and natural. My main gripe is the film's underwhelming climax set in a morgue. Mastroianni could have made better use of a creepy morgue setting, but the last ten minutes or so of the film are curiously flat. No sequel was ever filmed, and it's easy to see why the film quietly slipped into obscurity amidst the tons of other slashers being released at the time. HKYA isn't a flashy or gory slasher, it's not "edgy". However, it's got great characters and a good story, so it makes up for the lack of gore. Not that you need gore to make a good slasher, but you know what I mean.


     Overall, I've seen better slashers, and I've seen far worse. HKYA has developed a small following over the years as even Wes Craven homaged the great opening scene set in a movie theater in the opening of SCREAM 2. HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE is one of Joe Zaso's favorite slashers, and if you don't know who Joe Zaso is, google him immediately. I like this one, kids, even it's a bit flat at times. HKYA also has a great autumn setting, so it's an appropriate horror movie to watch around October.


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