Caitlin O'Heaney - Amy Jenson
Don Scardino - Marvin
Elizbaeth Kemp - Nancy
Patsy Pease - Joyce
Lewis Arlt - Det. Len Gamble
Tom Rolfing - Roy Carlton
Tom Hanks - Elliott
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Thriller
Running Time - 94 Minutes
I don't see why so many people want to get married. Other than marrying someone who may be old, rich, and possibly on life support, what's the point? Who wants to be embarrassed as they stand in front of friends and family, learning that his bride [who is dressed in white - a color she should be ashamed of wearing since she probably has been around the block and back a few times] has been sleeping with the best man who happens to be his brother? And really...who needs to deal with the bride's ex-boyfriend getting revenge on her by stabbing her before her wedding? Do you have any idea how much mailing back every single wedding present is gonna cost? And the blood on the carpet! It'll take weeks to get the stains out! Seriously, what is the point??
Oh...for films like HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE to exist. Yeah, that's not really necessary. If I wanted to see HALLOWEEN redone in a lamer way, I'd watch Rob Zombie's 2007 remake [which is better than the film I'm reviewing here]. Still, 1980's HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE isn't the worst film I've seen. It's just not a good or much of an entertaining one.
A bride-to-be is murdered in a movie theater. Detective Len Gamble (Lewis Arlt), who hasn't forgotten his own wedding day ruined when his bride-to-be was murdered, knows that the same killer is involved and is on a hunt to stop him.
Meanwhile, Amy Jenson (Caitlin O'Heaney) is preparing for her own nuptials with her girlfriends while her tool of a fiancee goes away for a bachelor party [banging other girls while he's at it]. Amy's ex-boyfriend, Marvin (Don Scardino), still wants Amy, who wants him back as well but is too much of a tease to do something about it. Soon, Amy realizes that the killer (Tom Rolfing) is stalking her, taking out whoever stands in his way.
Will Marvin save Amy from the killer? Will the douche fiancee catch gonorrhea and have burning pee for the rest of his life? Will Gamble shoot the killer six times? Will Amy drop the knife? Does the killer have family issues? Why am I not watching HALLOWEEN again?
HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE is one of the many slasher films to come out in the wake of the success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH during the massively profitable slasher boom from 1980 to 1984. It's also one of the forgotten ones, even though the beginning of the film was used in the opening of 1998's SCREAM 2 and features the film debut of future Academy Award winner, Tom Hanks. HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE doesn't hide the fact that it rip offs HALLOWEEN in a lot of ways, but does it in a less stylish and a much more boring way. The film isn't the worst horror film out there, but if you're going to watch a HALLOWEEN ripoff, why not watch the real thing?
The screenplay by Scott Parker is pretty derivative. The main sub-plot that sticks out at you is the killer's motive for murder. Since it's revealed to the audience right off the bat, it isn't much of a spoiler: the killer apparently was dumped by Detective Gamble's future wife, but couldn't handle the fact that she was moving on. So he killed her, something snapped mentally, and decided to kill all other brides in the same town. It's pretty simple and to the point. Right away, we know whoever is getting married is in deep trouble.
While I respect that we know why the killer is doing what he's doing, the mystery and scare factor is sacrificed because of it. There's no longer a "You can be next!" aspect in the film. If you're male, single, or don't believe in holy matrimony, you're safe. So while Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Taylor are screwed, Goldie Hawn's biggest worry would be why her daughter likes getting knocked up by musicians and enjoys starring in horrible Matthew McConaughey rom-coms. The fear is gone because of this knowledge, especially since we learn it within the first act. It also doesn't help that the killer doesn't bother disguising himself. We can clearly see his face whenever he's on screen, so he's nothing more than a regular guy with emotional issues. Rather than being terrified by the close-up of his eyes covered in eyeliner, we wonder why someone hasn't suggest seeing Dr. Phil or something. With the mystery gone, we're just left to watch these characters go about their day as they stumble into the hands of this guy in a lot of filler sequences. Not really exciting stuff.
Speaking of the killer's motive, it's kind of hard to stay focused on it when he ends up murdering innocent people along the way. Why bother killing Amy's friends if they're not getting married? Why kill the wedding dress clerk? Because they supported her wedding? Then why didn't he murder all the people at his ex-girlfriend's wedding if that was the case? It really makes no sense and left me wondering if this was intentional or just lazy screenwriting. Maybe it was both, who knows? But it was definitely a distraction.
I will say that at least we have decently written characters in the film. They weren't the most fleshed out people I've seen in a film, but at least they weren't entirely stereotypical either. Amy, the Final Girl, is actually quite likeable and pretty developed. She has an ex-boyfriend who she still loves. She's marrying a prick who cheats on her. Her friends seem to love her. And she's paranoid about the killer coming after her after she's spotted him a few times watching her. She has a bunch of different arcs and they create a character with a bit of depth to her. And the Marvin character is the comic relief and it works because he's pretty funny! So he's automatically a favorite to watch. The other characters aren't as fleshed out, but at least they all have personalities and their own stories for us to watch. It's a shame the Gamble character isn't as full as the others, because here was an attempt of creating a Dr. Samuel Loomis character - yet failed since we only know his reasoning to go after this guy and nothing else. The man is completely incompetent as a police officer and isn't seen much in the film, or does much of anything important. Again, what's the point?
For a slasher film, HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE is very tame and practically bloodless. Yes, you can say the same for the original HALLOWEEN as well, but during the slasher boom, slashers were expected to have insane death sequences and a bit of gore. The goriest bit here is seeing a decapitated head inside a fish tank. And you can tell it was fake as hell too. Other than that, you just see knife thrusts towards the camera. If the film was actually suspenseful, stylish, well paced, and had enough mood and tension to foreshadow these murder sequences, the lack of gore wouldn't even be an issue. But when you don't have any of those things, some blood would be a nice compensation.
The direction by Armand Mastroianni has its moments. It's obvious that he's mimicking John Carpenter's direction in HALLOWEEN. We get the first person POV shot from the killer's perspective. We get a scene where Amy walks through hedges while the killer stands waiting for. We get a scene where the killer watches Amy from a window, catching her attention. Even the musical score is almost exactly the same theme as HALLOWEEN's. And while the film looks nice and has decent framing and composition most of the time, there's barely any energy in the editing. In fact, it's shot very simple and is pretty drab for the most part. There are a lot of filler scenes as well, disrupting the pacing of the film. It's very cliche and there's nothing really exciting or interesting to look at when it comes to the visuals. Mastroianni does infuse some creepy and tense moments, but not enough to really capture one's attention throughout the film's running time. It's a poor man's John Carpenter at best. But if you're going to rip someone off, it might as well be someone great, right? And it was filmed in Staten Island, New York as well. I can't knock that either.
The acting is okay at best. Caitlin O'Heaney is good as Amy, our likeable and paranoid heroine. O'Heaney just comes across as honest and sweet, making her endearing and a stand out in early slasher roles. I did find her performance towards the end funny, though, for all the wrong reasons. Don Scardino of 1976's SQUIRM, as Marvin, was probably the best actor in the entire film. Coming across as the comic relief, he turned a one-note character into someone I was always looking forward to seeing. He just came across as natural and charming. Elizabeth Kemp was cool as Nancy. She didn't really do much but play the best friend, but I liked her. Lewis Arlt did nothing for me as Detective Gamble. His character wasn't great and the acting didn't help either. Tom Rofling as good moments as Roy Carlton, coming across as menacing at times. He also had moments where he came across as clumsy, due to the character not being as graceful as a horror killer should be. He was okay though. And of course, I can't conclude without mentioning Tom Hanks as psychology student, Elliott. Even though he's marketed on the DVD cover, he's only in the film for five minutes at most. He does well in his first film role, but doesn't show that star power he would gain in Bosom Buddies a bit later on.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE CROSSING OFF ROY CARLTON OFF OF MY WEDDING LIST
- Some slutty chick wouldn't let her lover feel her up. She's just like Jim Pardue - a cock tease!
- Some other chick was stabbed through her seat from behind inside of a movie theater. That's why people should stick to porn theaters. That way when they've been stabbed, it'll make them feel more alive than dead. Just ask Pee-Wee Herman. Might as well ask Charlie Sheen also while we're at it.
- Joyce is sleeping with her professor who teaches her Intro of some subject. I guess Intro involves just the tip while the Advanced classes offer the whole thing.
- Amy asked if it was worth getting married. Tiger Woods' ex-wife $ure think$ $o!
- The killer stabbed the wedding dress clerk with a pair of scissors. Looks like the new season of Bridezillas is going to be a bit bloodier than usual.
- Don't have a cigarette while relaxing after a long day with a killer on the loose. You'll be the one getting smoked.
THE FINAL HOWL
Even though it tries to be HALLOWEEN, HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE doesn't even come close to tying its shoes. It's pretty slow and forgettable despite a decent story structure and a game cast. Still, it's worth a watch if you're into slashers - especially ones that were made during its most successful era and not discussed often. And there's always Tom Hanks too, even though he's not in the film enough to make that a legitimate reason. A pretty mediocre horror/thriller effort that would make me file for separation, but not quite for divorce.
2 Howls Outta 4