He Knows You're Alone Movie Review
High Rock Park, Staten Island, NY.
HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE MOVIE REVIEW
The early 80’s are considered to be the golden age of horror movies, especially slasher films. The 1980 release “He Knows You’re Alone” is much more than just a well made scary slasher movie, it also happens to be Tom Hanks’ feature film debut. The movie takes the viewer into a macabre game of cat and mouse and leaves you with a shock ending.
“He Knows You’re Alone” follows Amy, who is getting ready for her wedding, around Staten Island. It should be the happiest time of her life, but while she is preparing for her big day someone else is keeping an eye on her and the members of her wedding party, and he is keeping the butcher knife sharp.
Amy sees her fiancé Phil off as he leaves town with his friends for his weekend away bachelor party. She is hanging out with her girlfriends for the next several days as her parents are out of town, and Amy is beginning to have second thoughts about her upcoming marriage to Phil. It also occurs to Amy that her friends and other people she knows do not think Phil may be the best choice for her. They instead feel her ex-boyfriend Marvin, who keeps following her around would make a better choice for marriage.
Amy believes a stranger is stalking her. She catches quick glimpses of this man on her property and around town but when she looks a second time, he is gone. Amy tries to point him out to her friends, but when she does he is not there. Her friends all think she is seeing things, but we know she is not. And when the killer strikes, her friends will realize Amy was not crying wolf and it will be too late.
Actress Caitlin O’Heaney does a wonderful job in the film’s lead role as Amy Jensen. She approaches her part not as a Hollywood movie star but instead as the girl next door, who is very real and captures both our heart and eyes. Miss O’Heaney’s performance also works so well because you believe her and can relate to Amy. We feel her highs and lows and her fears. She is attractive, in great shape and very natural looking. Caitlin O’Heaney’s acting seems so realistic that you never feel like you are watching a movie but instead observing her actually living her screen life.
Actor Don Scardino plays joke cracking Marvin, who works the night shift in the morgue. He blends boyhood innocence, black humor and his love for Amy all in one great performance. Marvin is the film’s comic relief and makes us laugh at his goofy antics and macabre sense of humor. We can easily identify with his friendly, high strung personality and never wanting to give up on the girl of his dreams.
Back Story & Secondary Plot
Marvin and Amy grew up together in the same town and dated years earlier, but when Marvin went away for the summer, Phil stepped in and won Amy over. Marvin never gave up on Amy and now he wants to make one last effort to get her back. Marvin loves Amy and wants her to break off her engagement to Phil and hopefully get her to marry him instead.
A secondary plot in the film involves Detective Len Gamble’s (Lewis Arlt) unrelenting pursuit to catch the killer for personal reasons. About five years earlier on the day of Len’s wedding, a slasher murdered his fiancé when she was alone upstairs. She had broken off her relationship with her ex-boyfriend Ray (Tom Rolfing) in the past and then he took his revenge on her wedding day. But now that time has passed and the detective realizes that other brides-to-be are being murdered, Len feels he’s being given a second chance to catch the killer. He wants this guy bad and feels the killer’s next target is Amy Jensen.
This movie has three characters we really get to know and feel for: Amy, Marvin and Detective Len Gamble. Their stories are very emotional and move us. We cheer them on and want all three to succeed. We laugh with Marvin and Amy at times and fear for their safety as well. They really become their characters as do the rest of the cast members.
Tom Hanks’ First Movie
Four years before he would come to fame as a movie star by the summer of 1984 with the success of “Bachelor Party” and “Splash”, Tom Hanks made his feature film debut in “He Knows You’re Alone”. Hanks plays Elliot, a psychology college major who is starting to date a girl in Amy’s wedding party. Although Tom Hanks only appears in the movie for a short time, his scenes and performance are very memorable. In one particular scene, Hanks explains the psychology of fear and Freud to Amy, her friend and Amy’s younger sister at an amusement park. Hanks does a great job and combines his style of witty humor with irony and fear. He is about 23-24 years old at the time, skinny and has a huge mop of curly hair. After watching his scenes, one gets a sense of Tom Hanks’ early career and sees the kind of fine acting he could do that would make him a household name and win him two Academy Awards For Best Actor in the years to come.
There are several notable familiar faces in the cast who would go on to be in cinema comedies over the years who appear in “He Knows You’re Alone”. Dana Barron, who plays Amy’s younger sister Diana, starred in “Vacation” as Audrey Griswold. Character actor Paul Gleason is Detective Frank Daley in the horror movie and is well known for his roles as Clarence Beeks in “Trading Places” and Principal Richard Vernon in “The Breakfast Club”. James Rebhorn plays Professor Carl Mason in the movie and later appeared in “My Cousin Vinny” as George Wilbur.
The Film Director & His Movie
Film Director Armand Mastroianni does a terrific job helming the movie from the opening scene to the very end. He keeps the tension throughout and gets the best performances from the cast members in the film. Mastroianni uses the camera visually to tell the story both revealing what he wants the audience to see as well as hiding from us where the killer may be lurking just off screen. Sometimes when the camera is used in the P.O.V. we think it is through the killer's eyes and it may or may not be. Mastroianni has directed 58 titles to present, mainly TV movie work including “Nowhere To Land”.
John Carpenter’s 1978 horror movie classic “Halloween” certainly has an influence on “He Knows You’re Alone”. Viewers will notice a similarity to “Halloween” in the film’s style and direction. For instance when Amy catches a quick glimpse of the killer watching her at times this is similar to Laurie Strode seeing Michael Myers in “Halloween”. When she goes to point him out to her friends, he is not there and they all think she is seeing things. But that’s where it mainly ends, “He Knows You’re Alone” stands on its own two feet.
One of the things that makes the film unpredictable is that we usually do not know when the killer may or may not strike. We see him and then he is gone. He’s nowhere to be seen and then he suddenly appears. He invades our safety and solitude of white picket fence suburbia. He will kill not only at night but also during the safety of daytime when we least expect it.
The cinematography works well for the feel of the film. It is low key and blue color is used at times to emulate the moonlight and give it a cold, scary look. Long dark shadows stretch over the nighttime house interiors and from them may spring the killer at any time.
The opening and ending theme piano music is very scary and memorable while eerie synthesizer music is also used to heighten the presence of the killer. It sends shivers up the spine just as the theme music from “Halloween” does. The piano, when used well and in its simplest form, can always make very scary horror music in the hands of a good composer.
There is a well done scene where a girl is relaxing and listening to a pop-rock record on her headphones when she is alone in the house one night. She looks around thinking she hears something but then relaxes and so does the audience. However, we also feel the possible presence of the killer lurking in the house as she listens to the record, but we are never quite sure if he is really there until the director wants us to know.
As good as the film’s soundtrack is, there is also some very dated, goofy sounding background music in an early scene when Amy is walking around town during the daytime and jogging at the park. This piece of music doesn't really seem to belong and makes one wonder what the filmmakers were thinking. Then again this is 1980 and it is a crossover year between the late 1970’s and 80’s and the music is changing as well as clothing and hairstyles for the new decade.
Location & Change Of Seasons
Shot most likely during the change of seasons as the fall is giving way to winter, everything has a cold, dead look to it. All the leaves have fallen off the trees and the fall season is over but there is no snow as winter hasn’t taken hold yet. To top all this off, when the film is shot outdoors during the daytime, it is frequently cloudy and overcast, adding to the bleak, deadly look of everything to help with the film’s atmosphere.
The movie was filmed entirely on Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City and is the perfect location for the film. There are large suburban homes with spacious lawns and properties that give way to the woods as well as the urban setting. A building that is part of the old New York City Farm Colony-Seaview Hospital system doubled as the morgue where Marvin works the night shift. The jogging scenes were shot at High Rock Park, which is part of Staten Island’s Greenbelt.
The Early 80’s
The early 80’s are considered to be the golden age of horror movies and in particular the slasher film. After the success of movies like “Halloween” and “Friday The 13th”, independent filmmakers and the movie studio systems cashed in on the genre. MGM’s “He Knows You’re Alone” was right on target. The early 80’s were also a time for the modern horror filmmaker to do great work concentrating on the story along with great movie making techniques before computer digital effects would find their way into films a decade later.
He Knows You’re Alone
“He Knows You’re Alone” is the kind of horror movie that has you thinking about it when you finish watching it and try to sleep that night. What was that sound? Did something go bump in the night? Did you remember to lock all the doors and windows? Are all of your kitchen knives accounted for? Could the killer have somehow gotten in and now he is coming up the stairs, for you. The next day you daydream about the film once more but in the safety of daylight. But night comes again and you’re at home by yourself and then you think about the movie once more, for “He Knows You’re Alone”.