Review Date: October 23, 2004
Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 10/5/2004
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Like Easy Rider ten years prior, John Carpenter’s Halloween
opened the floodgates for independent filmmaking for a number of up-and-coming filmmakers. Several of Hollywood’s biggest stars, both in front and behind the cameras, got their starts in those little slasher films that Halloween
made viable. Miramax was created with The Burning
, Abel Ferrera started his directing career with The Driller Killer
, Johnny Depp began with A Nightmare on Elm Street
, Dana Carvey with Halloween II
, Daryl Hannah with The Final Terror
, Kevin Bacon with Friday the 13th
, Holly Hunter with The Burning
, Brad Pitt with Cutting Class
, and even Tom Hanks with He Knows You’re Alone
. As much as studios want to disown slasher films, they were nonetheless responsible for building those same studios with some of the world’s most popular talent.
Although Tom Hanks was still an unknown at the time of He Knows You’re Alone
’s release, the film’s notoriety today has been based largely on his presence. Indeed, it is probably why Warner Brothers opted to release the film this fall on DVD. Hanks’s role is only small however, so how does the rest of the film hold up? Let’s slash through and find out.
A young couple make-out in the backseat of a car. The woods are empty, the stars are bright, and the radio plays a sensual song. Then there is a snap. A noise can be heard from outside the car, so the girl sends her boyfriend out to investigate. He never returns, and she goes out to investigate. She takes the flashlight and heads out of the car, only to find her boyfriend hanging from a tree. She Scream
s, and the killer emerges from the shadows to finish the job. Just then, the camera pulls back to reveal that everything on screen was actually a film within a film. As a woman leaves the theatre to go to the bathroom, the reel life becomes the real life, as a slasher similar to the one in the theatrical film kills the viewer.
The killer, it is discovered in a flashback, was a man victim to breakup. His girlfriend had left him for someone else, and the pain of rejection was so fierce that it brought him to kill her on her wedding day. Now, he lurks the streets, searching for engaged women the world over, ready to relive his traumatic past over and over again. The woman in the theater was to be married, as is Amy (Caitlin O’Heaney), a soft-spoken ballet dancer and the killer’s next target. She is going to marry Phil, but and old fling by the name of Marvin has come back into her life, making her ripe for a little moral lesson by Mr. Butcher Knife.
The film would be over much to soon if the killer went after Amy immediately, so he spends the film stalking her and disposing of her horny drug-abusing friends, Nancy and Joyce. He also gets rid of a few bystanders along the way, until Amy is forced to face the killer alone. A police officer with a mysterious past also has his sights set on the killer, but will he be able to get to him before the killer does Amy?
He Knows You’re Alone
is a fairly routine slasher film that abides by all the generic clichés, but does an effective job at doing so. While the direction isn’t particularly stylish, there are still some creepy moments with the killer emerging from behind objects and from within the shadows. Tom Rolfing does a good job with the killer, using the intensity of his eyes to makeup for his speechless role. Director Armando Mastroianni utilizes Rolfing’s eyes to good effect in a number of startling close-ups during the murder scenes. Still, the film remains entirely generic, with the repressed and soft-spoken final girl lasting long enough to see all her uninhibited friends die after laborious chase scenes. She of course faces and apprehends the killer, but she is unable to escape his menace by the punch line ending. It is routine stuff.
Shots are lifted verbatim from Halloween
, whether it be the long tracking shot of Amy walking home through hedged neighborhoods or Amy spotting the killer standing in her yard. The score is also derivative of Halloween
, with the quick piano refrain nearly an exact replica of Carpenter’s seminal theme. Yet, despite the film’s obvious and derivative nature, its familiarity is a virtue. Like Prom Night
, He Knows You’re Alone
is a film so predictable that it empowers today’s genre aware audiences in satisfying ways. It is a Big Mac, prepackaged and standardized to the point where the consumer will know exactly how it will taste before s/he eats it. There is something gratifying about knowing exactly when a shock will happen, what the killer will do, and how it will end. He Knows You’re Alone
delivers virtually nothing new in terms of style or story, but each cliché is executed in such a competent manner that slasher fans will no doubt enjoy.
One slight diversion the film has from slasher convention is the motivations of the killer himself. Although he still kills those who do drugs (Nancy) and those who have sex (Joyce), the killer’s ultimate goal is to punish those seeking matrimony. Instead of the usual liberated women targets, this killer instead goes for the virginal women seeking to responsibly consummate their love to the vows of marriage. While most slashers seem to promote conservative values, having the killer punish anyone who breaks the law or has fun, this one primarily punishes those who follow the rules and look to abide by lawful marriage. The motive for the killing is still the slasher stalwart of rejection (like it is in Terror Train
), but the fact that the killer targets sinless virgins is a notable diversion.
The film entertains an interesting convention break like the killer targeting virgins, but it still seems focused on being as derivative as possible. Even its other notable cliché alteration, the opening film-within-a-film sequence, does not push the slasher genre to any new ground. Screenwriter Scott Parker acknowledges all the clichés in the opening film, but instead of trying to subvert them he merely follows them to a tee throughout the entirety of He Knows You’re Alone
. If anything, the film can be credited as opening the door to referentiality in slasher films, since it exposes the slasher clichés even as they were still being formed in the genre’s early 1980 lifespan. The Scream
series in particular in indebted to the beginning of He Knows
, since it predicts the way the characters would be able to recognize all the slasher clichés being presented before them. Scream 2
also retools the opening of He Knows
for a very similar effect. So while Scott Parker may not have been ready to take on slasher conventions full on in 1980, he nonetheless introduced their dissection with He Knows You’re Alone
When all is said and done however, He Knows Your Alone remains a rudimentary slasher excursion that pleasingly abides by nearly ever slasher convention in the book. Nothing is particularly new, but the familiarity will ensure slasher junkies get their fix. A lack of any blood or gore may turn off hardcore viewers, others should appreciate the film for the routine little slasher film that it is. And hey, it has Tom Hanks.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 widscreen, enhanced for widescreen televisions. The print is fairly grainy throughout, and scuffs and scratches are visible during the entire runtime. The film certainly looks its 25 year age. Although the print may not be the cleanest, it certainly has nice color reproduction. Apparent right from the start, with the hue of the girl’s red dress or the background’s blue fog looking particularly appealing. Flesh tones are never too red, and browns are surprisingly warm. Some of the cheesy optical effects look predictably washed out, but overall the colors look better than they have any right to. Coloring aside, the print is nonetheless grainy and dirty and could have easily been cleaned up much more than it has been.
Presented in English and French mono only, the sound is only fair. There are parts where audible hissing can be heard, muffling out what is being spoken onscreen. The most noticeable part is during the scene with Tom Hanks at the fair, where many of his lines have a distracting fizzing in the background. That scene is the most distracting, while the hissing is not nearly as noticeable throughout the rest of the film. The music sounds fine.
Although a small scale release by Warner Brothers, they still took the time to assemble a commentary with director Armand Mastroianni and screenwriter Scott Parker. The two were recorded together but don’t really have interesting repartee. Mastroianni speaks early on about how the film was financed and ultimately sold to MGM, and it is an interesting demonstration of how the independent film scene can work. The track slowly goes downhill from there though, as the two eventually run out of things to say, with gaps and pauses getting longer and longer throughout the length of the film. It is surprising at how they completely ignore discussion of Halloween
throughout, especially considering how similar the scoring and shot design is. Instead we get some random recollections that don’t really hold much weight. It is a nice extra, but ultimately about as slight as the film itself.
The only other extra is a trailer, which is notable for featuring many sequences not shown in the film. Mastroianni points out in the commentary how MGM shot a bunch of sequences in post in order to promote the film. Definitely one of the better made slasher trailers out there.
With nothing particularly groundbreaking, He Knows You’re Alone
is a film that relies on audience familiarity with the slasher clichés to generate interest. It is cookie cutter in construction, but still ultimately baseline enjoyable. Both the video and audio could have used further restoration, as the picture is full of scuffs and the audio full of hiss. The audio commentary is a nice, if light, inclusion. It’s no Halloween
, both in terms of film quality and DVD treatment, but slasher fans might want to still give it a look. Buying it would be a nice little marriage, and if it doesn’t work out, there is always divorce…eBay.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B-
Sound - C
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 1 hour 34 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Commentary by Director Armand Mastoianni and Screenwriter Scott Parker
- Theatrical trailer