How well do you know your 80s’ slasher movies? Even casual horror fans know Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play. More avid horror fans will cite some of the underrated classics like The Burning, Just Before Dawn, or Intruder. And then the slasher purists – the ones on Scream Factory’s email list – will point out those forgotten movies. Curtains. The Dorm That Dripped Blood. The Final Terror. And then there’s Scream Factory’s most recent blu-ray release – He Knows You’re Alone. Following on the heels of Friday the 13th, He Knows You’re Alone is an early slasher trying to find its footing in a still developing subgenre. Today, it’s mostly mentioned for its casting of a young Tom Hanks.
Several years ago, jilted lover Ray Carlton brutally murdered his ex-fiancé on her wedding day. But after disappearing Ray re-surfaces, murdering another bride-to-be in a movie theatre. Now Ray is stalking an engaged university student, Amy Jensen, and her friends.
He Knows You’re Alone Straddles Two Subgenres
When He Knows You’re Alone hit limited movie theatres, Friday the 13th was only a few months old itself. The slasher movie as we know it today was still a work in progress. All the familiar tropes weren’t tropes yet. In fact, Scott Parker’s screenplay looks like it took its cues from a mix of Halloween and When a Stranger Calls. On one hand, Parker cribs from John Carpenter’s holiday narrative, building all the movie’s narrative around a ‘wedding’ theme. He Knows You’re Alone also hilariously misunderstands Michael Myers, taking Carpenter’s ‘The Shape’ too literally. That is, the movie’s jilted-groom killer is silent and omnipresent while being very much human. But Parker’s screenplay also emulates When a Stranger Calls‘ mix of police procedural and thriller without ever fully committing.
The slasher bits are bloodless and the scares poorly executed.
As a result, He Knows You’re Alone feels very awkwardly paced. Director Armand Mastroianni kicks things off with a bang. There’s a terrific ‘movie within a movie’ opening followed by a wicked first kill. Flash forward to the movie’s climax and Mastroianni again flashes some decent slasher chops. In between, however, He Knows You’re Alone is a stop-and-go affair that doesn’t get either subgenre right. The slasher bits are bloodless and the scares poorly executed. And the movie’s killer is a dull blank slate leaving nothing for the movie’s psychological thriller ambitions to explore.
He Knows You’re Alone – The One With Tom Hanks
With the odd exception, most 80s slasher movies are stacked with a cast of young unknowns. Occasionally, one of those unknowns went on to bigger and better things. Consider that Friday the 13th had Kevin Bacon, while The Burning had Holly Hunter, Fischer Stevens, and Jason Alexander. And He Knows You’re Alone has Tom Hanks, Yes, that Tom Hanks. But don’t get too excited. Hanks’ role is extremely brief, though you can absolutely see the charisma. However, the main cast actually exceeds expectations. In particular, Dan Scardino’s ‘Marvin’, Amy’s still quite infatuated boyfriend, is a breath of fresh air. His performance bursts with a charm that far outmatches the quality of the movie itself.
And He Knows You’re Alone has Tom Hanks. Yes, that Tom Hanks. But don’t get too excited. Hanks’ roles is extremely brief …
Our ‘Final Girl’, Caitlin O’Heaney similarly outperforms the material with which she’s stuck. She’s quite engaging and though her character’s indecisiveness about getting married makes her somewhat unsympathetic that’s on the screenplay, not O’Heaney. There’s a few other familiar faces that pop up in He Knows You’re Alone. Fans of The Breakfast Club will immediately recognize Paul Gleason, playing a police detective. Veteran character actor James Rebhorn and soap opera star Patsy Pease show up as a lecherous professor and student, respectively. As for Tom Rolfing, the movie’s killer – he never showed up in another movie, which says about as much as necessary about his performance.
He Knows You’re Alone
Though it’s a slasher movie, He Knows You’re Alone straddled an awkward fence when released. Mastroianni clearly patterns the movie after Halloween from its ‘holiday theme’ to his killer’s omnipresent stalking. But He Knows You’re Alone also seems to want to be a psychological thriller like When a Stranger Calls. As a result, the pacing is often slow and clumsy. And the lack of any slasher gore hurts particularly when the scares and setup feel generic. But the cast is universally better than what you’ll find in most 80s slashers. And He Knows You’re Alone delivers a good opening and climax. There’s enough here to recommend this one to diehard 80s horror fans.