A.J.’s Big ’80s Horrorthon #4: “He Knows You’re Alone” (1980)

by A.J. Hakari

 

Not every slasher property has the franchise-fueled staying power of a Friday the 13th, but there’s usually something that helps them stick around in the public consciousness. A twist ending, a distinct villain costume, a huge body count — the usual stuff. But I’m not entirely sure how He Knows You’re Alone raised enough awareness to earn a DVD release, let alone escape its own dusty corner of the video store. It’s probably because it features Tom Hanks in his debut performance (for all of five minutes), but the rest of the film is so drawn-out and pale, I don’t think the moral watchdogs of the ’80s who cried foul at the sight of a paper cut could find much to bitch about here.

After a brief absence, an emotionless killer has returned to lead a new slew of lambs to the slaughter. His targets: young women on the eve of their weddings, inspired by being spurned by a former lover himself years ago. The bride-to-be of this nutzoid’s latest obsession is Amy Jensen (Caitlin O’Heaney), who’s left all on her lonesome while her fiance is off on a weekend-long bachelor party. This sweet young thing is prime stalking material, and while those around her fall victim to the killer’s blade one by one, Amy turns to an old beau (Don Scardino) to help her stay alive long enough to reach the altar.

I wasn’t expecting a white-knuckle thrill ride out of He Knows You’re Alone, but something that didn’t catapult me into a coma after Act I would’ve been nice. Surprisingly, I got a kick out of the opening sequence, which toys with the viewer and sends up slasher convention (a novel move considering how relatively new the genre was at the time). But the film quickly starts schlepping through a series of the most pedestrian excuses for jumps and jolts this side of a Lions Club haunted house. The antagonist looks like a vaguely threatening version of Teller, the characters are indiscernable, and with the violence subdued to a few stabbings and an offscreen decapitation, there’s nothing to engage you when any of these personality-free dinks bites the big one.

Plain and simple, He Knows You’re Alone blows. I can see it trying to emphasize slow-burn suspense over sensationalized geysers of gore, but its efforts result in a pretty miserable, yawn-inducing failure. Besides, who needs a movie like this to make marriage look scarier when it’s plenty daunting as is?

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