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Tuesday 17 January 2023

Burl reviews He Knows You're Alone! (1980)


Sweet gumchewers, hello! It’s Burl, here to review another old school slasher picture, one of the many that came along in the direct wake of Halloween! Of course only one of these pretenders could reign supreme and that’s Friday the 13th, but that doesn’t mean the others didn’t have something to offer the undiscerning horror viewer! Take, for instance, the picture under close observation today: an east coast stalk-n-slash entitled He Knows You’re Alone!

It all gets going with a pretty decent fake-out – a cliché-filled stalking scene featuring a couple played by Russell Todd, who would later fall victim to Jason in Friday the 13th part 2 and to robots in Chopping Mall, and Debbie Novak, who had earlier appeared in jiggle comedies Team-Mates and Incoming Freshmen; but this scene turns out to be from a movie on a theatre screen being watched by two young ladies! Ha ha, just like Scream 2! Of course one of these ladies catches a dorsal poking through the seatback, and it turns out she was a bride-to-be, and very likely, according to an obsessed but incompetent moustache cop, the latest victim of a known bride-to-be killer! The killer is a jilted groom whose own abandonment at the altar sent him totally sneebarr, and ever since he’s been killing brides-to-be wherever he may find them, including the obsessed moustache cop’s fiancée!

This of course is, alongside the inciting incident in Hospital Massacre, among the weakest motivations ever tried on in a slasher movie, but never mind that – the actor playing the killer tries to compensate for this nonsense by opening his eyes as wide as possible in every close-up! He actually does convince as a madman, and you certainly buy him as a threatening one, even as you wonder what he does in his spare time and how he earns a living when not stalking brides-to-be!

Our central bride-to-be is called Amy, and she’s played by Caitlin O’Heaney, who appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and was the beautiful English teacher in Three O’Clock High! She’s marrying an obvious jerk named Phil, but at the same time her old boyfriend Marvin is trying in his ginger-headed way to win her back! Marvin has his own charms, being as how he’s played by Don Scardino from Homer and Rip-Off, but he’s also a morgue assistant, so tends to joke about dead bodies! Ha ha, if this had been more of a whodunit, I’m sure Marvin’s job would have made him a suspect, as it does Bill Paxton’s character in Mortuary!

Amy’s pals include Nancy, a goofy gal played by Elizabeth Kemp from Eating, and Diana the goodtime gal played by Dana Barron of Vacation and Heaven Help Us fame! Midway through the picture, Nancy hooks up with a friendly but pompous jogger played by none other than Tom Hanks from Dragnet and Apollo 13! The whole gang enjoys a midwinter carnival, where, on hearing that Amy has been feeling herself stalked by a tall man in black, Hanks casually dismisses her fears with some psych-babble, exits frame while asking “Ya wanna goober?” and is gone from the film for the duration! Ha ha, he doesn’t even reappear to get slaughtered, as, I will admit, I’d hoped he might!

Of course most of Amy’s friends, and some of the friends of their friends, and even a poor friendly dressmaker played by Joseph Leon from Brewster’s Millions, fall to the bug-eyed maniac’s cutlery one by one! There’s only a bit of blood in most of these sequences and no Special Makeup Effects (as the credits usually put it), the exception being when a rather goofy-looking severed head is discovered in a fishtank! Ha ha, having once made an equally goofy special effects head for a movie myself, I was pretty tickled to see it!

The climax of the picture takes place in the strangely vast town morgue, simply because that’s the building Amy happens across as she’s blindly running from the killer! I guess Marvin is there and she might have picked it because of that, but he’s not a lot of help, and nor is the exquisitely stupid moustache cop once he finally happens upon the scene! But there are some tense sequences in that morgue, as well as some that should be tense but weren’t given enough care and skill to be as scary as they should be! That there’s any real suspense at all still puts the picture ahead of most of its slasher brethren, though! In this way it reminded me of Eyes of a Stranger, right down to the head in the fishtank, ha ha, except that instead of Florida, this one is set in midwinter Staten Island! At least, it was shot there – it’s probably meant to be set in a Haddonfield-like small town!

It was the first directorial effort from Armand Mastroianni, who later brought us such laxomorphs as The Supernaturals and Cameron’s Closet, and while he’s no John Carpenter, he did a fair job here! There’s also some nice photography from Gerald Feil, one of those guys who had a strangely broad-based career in film, and also happened to shoot 3-D slasher spectaculars like Friday the 13th part III and Silent Madness! The cast includes stalwarts like James Rebhorn from If Lucy Fell and Shadows and Fog in the role of a horny professor, and Paul Gleason from Die Hard and Night Game playing, of course, a cop! We even get a touch of Steve James, whom we know from Avenging Force and so many other action pictures, and who should have been a star!

It’ll always be remembered as Tom Hanks’s debut movie, but it has a little extra going for it, like the generally strong cast and the appealing midwinter atmosphere! It’s no classic: the script is highly mediocre, the concept ridiculous, the ending extremely weak (the killer is trapped in a room and presumably arrested by local cops), and the last twist even more so, and the whole thing is fairly pointless, but, ha ha, we’ve all seen much worse, I’d guess! I’ll give He Knows You’re Alone two mildly ribald Boy Scout singalongs!

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