I like to rent films I know practically nothing about, & so it was with Alone, a new British dtv feature starring a selection of actors who may be vaguely familiar from TV, such as Miriam Margolyes, John Shrapnel, the lovely Claire Goose, plus ex-Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. The narrative concerns Alex, a stalker who breaks into women’s houses, & does all their washing up. Actually that makes it sound a bit more boring than it actually is, but I don’t want to reveal too much.
Alone benefits from a pretty creepy cold & mechanical sound design that is reflected in the design aesthetic of the film, with it’s blue lighting, cold bare sets & minimal cast. Whilst this does give a weird atmosphere of isolation & loneliness (as befits it’s title), it does also give the impression that they didn’t have enough budget to dress the sets once they’d built them, or hire any extras. In fact, the whole film feels like a made for TV drama, although it actually feels cheaper than many recent TV productions.
It’s also a perhaps over-stylish film, with director Philip Claydon throwing all the editing tricks he can into the barrel, delivering a film that makes most music videos look like Herschell Gordon Lewis films. Whilst I’m sure some people will really like this approach, I personally found it to be annoyingly distracting & it made it hard for me to get into the film. In fact, after a horribly fractured & unconvincing first half hour, I very nearly switched it off – something I try to never ever do. I’m glad I didn’t, because things do get a bit better in the final hour with some surprisingly tense & disturbing scenes leading to an almost good climax in a unfeasibly deserted hospital, that borrows heavily from both Halloween II & then particularly Halloween. It then finishes with a “shocking surprise twist” that suggests someone’s been watching a certain controversial music video (or reading a certain children’s book), which is as surprising as me not finding Jennifer Love Hewitt lying in bed next to me when I wake up each morning.
One thing it could be argued that the stylishness does do well is to put you into the mind frame of Alex. A large proportion of the film is shot from Alex’s POV, & the editing is certainly as splintered & fractured as Alex’s mind presumably is. These sequences also have a surplus of weird voice-overs – the voices in the mind presumably – which are quite disorientating, and perhaps a touch intrusive & off-putting as well.
Overall, Alone is not too bad a film, with a couple of reasonably disturbing moments & some genuine chills. There’s not too much that hasn’t been done better elsewhere, & it doesn’t really offer too much insight into its characters or why they behave the way they do. But it’s a passable way to spend an hour and a half, & I don’t really regret having watched it. I don’t think I could bother watching it a second time, however.
I’ve caught the rental-only R2/PAL release from High Fliers Distribution, who were also responsible for the first UK release of Argento’s Phantom of the Opera. I think they’re making a serious bid to take the title of worst purveyor of DVD’s in the UK. Like Phantom, Alone is presented in a shoddy Pan & Scan transfer (even though the credits reveal something more akin to 1.78:1 at least), with severe grain problems & washed out colours. Audio is rather better presented with a Dolby surround track that works quite well. As for extras, there are a couple of trailers for other films, and that’s it. Not even a scene selection screen (although unlike Mulholland Dr, it does have chapter stops). A terrible release.