*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- Every Girl Is Frightened the Night before Her Wedding, but This Time There’s Good Reason!
Release Date- September 12th, 1980
Running Time- 94-Minutes
Screenplay- Scott Parker
Director- Armand Mastroianni
Starring- Don Scardino, Caitlin O’Heaney, Elizabeth Kemp, James Rebhorn, Paul Gleason with Lewis Arlt as Det. Len Gamble and Tom Rolfing as Ray Carlton (the Killer)
Released in 1980 He Knows You’re Alone was one of the many films produced in the wake of the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween and He Knows You’re Alone is sort of one of the forgotten slasher flicks of the era; the very same year this came out Friday the 13th was released as was Prom Night and Maniac so it’s easy to see why this one gets overlooked and with the countless amount of slasher films that dominated the 80s its no surprise many will be forgotten. It’s not as scary as Halloween and doesn’t have the gore F/X of Tom Savini. However while He Knows You’re Alone isn’t the best known slasher film it hasn’t totally faded into oblivion like many others and the main reason for that is this film was the acting debut for Tom Hanks who has a small role, but had a decent amount of screen time. It’s quite easy to dismiss this film as nothing more than a cheap Halloween knockoff, but I think it has a little more going for it and while it will never make a top 10 list, He Knows You’re Alone still provides some fun and is better than its reputation.
It’s not quite surprising He Knows You’re Alone isn’t more remembered as nothing here really stands out. Like I said it isn’t as scary as Halloween, there really isn’t any gore either and perhaps this could have used a little more and the death scenes are about average. Most reviews while not overly horrible aren’t all that great either and I get why, but I think He Knows You’re Alone is a fairly strong slasher movie and again maybe not top 10, but better than a lot of others out there. He Knows You’re Alone, however kind of holds a special place with me. It was shot out in Staten Island, NY, which is where I live and I know the locations very well as I often frequent the area. I first saw this film in I think 1998 or 1999, which is almost 20-years after it was released and while some locations aren’t around others are. I have walked down the streets the film was shot and even stood in front of the very same spots as the characters in the film and In some ways it adds to the suspense for me even if it isn’t the most suspenseful film I’ve seen.
The screenplay was written by Scott Parker deals with a killer (Rolfing) stalking and killing brides to be; how he finds out these women are to be married is beyond me and when he starts to stalk Amy (O’Heaney) why does he also target her friends? But hey this is a slasher film so I suppose asking such questions are kinda foolish.
The script gets off to a smart start and in someways can be seen as a satire in the opening minutes and I would have to think the opening greatly influenced Kevin Williamson with his script for Scream 2. Scott Parker owes a lot to John Carpenter and Debra Hill as he takes some ideas from Halloween though the Halloween elements are more on the directing side than writing. I don’t think anyone really goes into a slasher flick for great writing, but Scott Parker actually writes a fairly decent script. The main characters are fairly likable, which is more often than not quite rare for slasher films. Unlike most slasher films the characters here are adults and not teens, but they sure act like teens for the most part. While the characters aren’t exactly developed, Parker does enough with them to give them some sort of an identity rather than simply being faceless victims. The love triangle element was interesting enough and it doesn’t come across as sappy as Amy is caught between two men one, which she is set to marry and an ex flame Marvin (Scardino). While other movies have attempted this here it doesn’t take away from the movie or again come across as sappy.
The one area Scott Parker clearly owes Carpenter & Hill is with Dt. Gamble (Arlt) who is pretty much a clone of Dr. Loomis. Gamble is on the hunt for the killer and is obsessed with stopping him and it’s also very personal, which is shown why in flashbacks. Even though Parker clearly took this concept from Halloween it still works well enough and while the character of Gamble isn’t as Iconic or likable as Dr. Loomis, he does work well. Overall the script while nothing special is fairly well written when compared to many other slasher films and sure the script owes a bit to Halloween we can say that about a good portion of 80s slashers.
Armand Mastroianni makes his directorial debut and is better known for his TV productions, which include many made for TV movies and has also directed episodes of Dark Shadows, Friday the 13th: The Series and an episode of The Dead Zone. Mastroianni pretty much uses the John Carpenter text book of filmmaking. Several shots are clearly inspired by Halloween and Mastroianni does his best at making the killer another version of Michael Myers. The pacing for the most part is fairly strong and even though the film is only 94-minutes it probably could have lost a couple of minutes. There are a couple of scenes when the pacing can be a bit sluggish as shots of the killer following Amy aren’t nearly as effective as Halloween. However even with a little bit of sluggish pacing at times, He Knows You’re Alone is never boring. And the fact I know the locations so well might add to the suspense. Rather than make a splatter flick Mastroianni focuses more on building suspense however since so many shots are lifted from Halloween it might hinder things in some aspects, but its also a solid effort as making a splatter flick would be the easy and lazy thing to do.
Even if the suspense at times might lack, Mastroianni also puts together some effective scenes and while its not exactly Alfred Hitchcock there are some nice touches. Mastroianni also gets great use of his locations and I always felt Staten Island could make for a good location for a horror film. Again I am a little biased, but I do think despite the flaws there is some nice moments of suspense. He Knows You’re Alone isn’t a great film and it does have its problems, but when all is said and done it does make for a fun slasher film with decent suspense.
The score by Alexander Peskanov & Mark Peskanov is very much like Carpenter’s score for Halloween. I liked the score a lot, but it is a little too much a clone of Halloween, but if you’re gonna ripoff any score I guess that’s as good as any.
The cast is one of the better ones for an 80s slasher and the acting might be a step above most. Besides being the acting debut of Tom Hanks, Paul Gleason best known for his role in such films as Die Hard and The Breakfast Club has a bit part as a detective and a young Dana Barron also has a bit role. All the actors were fairly strong with Elizabeth Kemp, Don Scardino and Caitlin O’Heaney all giving strong performances and being more likable than most slasher film characters.
Overall He Knows You’re Alone is far from being a classic of the genre, but it does make for an entertaining film and while it isn’t nearly as strong as other slasher flicks from the era I think again its far better than its reputation. Sure it does take a few too many elements from Halloween, but if we bashed every slasher film that did that we’d bash 95% of them. Don’t go into this expecting one of the slasher greats and just take it for what it is you might find yourself enjoying it. I may be a little biased towards the film, but putting they aside He Knows You’re Alone does make for a fun viewing.
The Director of Photography Gerald Feil would go onto DP Friday the 13th Part 3 and in the opening scene Russell Todd appears and he would star in Friday the 13th Part 2 the following year.