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I am reasonably certain there was a good movie in the British Serial Killer film “Alone”, but the final product is, alas, not so good. Even if you could survive first-time director Philip Claydon’s extreme A.D.D.-inspired directing style, you’d still have to deal with a cast of very silly characters, included by not limited to: a veteran Detective with almost no personality to speak of; his young Detective partner who thinks she’s on Spring Break instead of chasing a serial killer; and cops that are so ineffectual they make the average adult in a Teen Slasher movie look competent by comparison. Films like “Alone” makes me break out the old standby, which goes something like this: “It’s not that ‘Alone’ is a bad movie; it’s just not very good.”
“Alone” is about Alex, the movie’s unseen serial killer, who stalks young woman in hopes of curing some deep seeded emotional issues. Also, Alex is a woman, and suffers from an extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Alex has already killed one woman as the film opens, putting hardboiled cop Hannah (John Shrapnel) on her tail. Now she’s targeting another young woman name Sarah (Caroline Carver) who she met at a cemetery. Needless to say Alex has a lot of problems, one of which is hearing voices in her head. In-between her daily visits to her chain-smoking caseworker (Miriam Margolyes), Alex stalks potential companions.
Directed by Claydon with a manic frenzy, “Alone” looks like a cross between “Seven” and a really bored MTV music video. In a way, Claydon’s style is similar to Alex Proyas’, especially in “Dark City”, where we get dozens of cuts that jumps a second or so forward in time. For example, a simplistic scene of someone pouring a glass of milk will nevertheless involve a flurry of cuts. This gives the film a jerky feel, and I guess it works here, since all of the movie’s stalk scenes are seen from Alex’s POV. The film’s repetitive nature also owes to Alex’s chaotic emotional state and inner turmoil. In those ways, the filmmakers effectively convey the world as seen through Alex’s filtered eyes.
But as a Serial Killer movie, “Alone” is not quite up to par. For one, it’s mostly very tedious and the plotting is not very exciting. It features exactly three kill scenes, but that’s misleading considering the tamed violence involved. One victim is a pushed down a flight of stairs, another dies of an accidental overdose, and a third is dispatched by way of choking — although the scene is too dark and blurry to really make out. The point is, “Alone” is not good for horror aficionados, unless you count a really disgusting 5-minute sequence when Alex force-feeds a victim. I could have done without that, especially since the rest of the movie is so tame.
Of course the object of the movie is to put us into the mind of serial killer Alex. If hearing voices and seeing the world in repetitive jagged glimpses is your thing, then “Alone” will give you an overdose of both. I could have used less Alex POV and better pacing. Even at just under 90 minutes of running time, “Alone” feels like 2 hours. Things don’t seem to pop and crackle, which is a strange thing to say considering the loud and ruckus MTV-inspired directing style.
The fact that Alex is a female serial killer doesn’t really factor into the movie; in fact, you never “see” Alex at all. The closest we come to seeing Alex is as a shadowy figure in the background for a split-second or so. As veteran cop Hannah, John Shrapnel (“Gladiator”) has the world’s greatest last name, but unfortunately his character is just as inane and uninteresting as his young partner played by Isabel Brook (“Faust”). About two-thirds into the movie, American Laurel Holloman becomes the third object of Alex’s fatal attraction. Although by this point most viewers will be too bored with “Alone” to bother. The fact that the film is purposely repetitious in nature does nothing to keep the viewers’ attention.
The film’s best moment comes at around the 35-minute mark, when Hannah’s “I’m not a cop, I’m vacationing in Cancun!” young partner storms into his apartment demanding why he’s transferring her. This, mind you, after our young lass has broken into Hannah’s office and rife through his desk (thus discovering the transfer papers). Gee, let’s count the reasons why he wouldn’t want to be partner with her, shall we? You’re dismissive, you treat your veteran partner like he’s a carcass on two feet, you think nothing about getting personal calls from your boyfriend at murder scenes, you like to break into your boss’s office, and oh yeah, you question his every move, even though you’ve only been on the job for oh, a couple of days, and is still on probation as a Detective.
Of course the fact that the above scene is supposed to be dramatic and show off Isabel Brook’s nonexistent acting chops only makes it more amusing. Sometimes I wonder who is to blame for this sort of signal mix-up. Did the writer fail to convey what he wanted in the script, or did the director ignore the writer’s intentions? Whatever the case, the scene is good for a laugh.
Philip Claydon (director) / Paul Hart-Wilden (screenplay)
CAST: Miriam Margolyes …. Case worker
John Shrapnel …. Hannah
Laurel Holloman …. Charlotte
Isabel Brook …. Jen
Caroline Carver …. Sarah