1980 was the beginning of the big boom for the slasher genre. While 1978's Halloween was a certifiable indie hit, it wasn't until Friday the 13th came along two years later- and was a huge success- that the major studios realized that audiences wanted more of these degenerate horror movies...and more audience means more money.
Part of the growing phenomenon was today's viewing, He Knows You're Alone, a low-budget flick about a jilted groom-to-be who takes his revenge by murdering young brides-to-be. Standard stuff, by the sound of it, but director Armand Mastroianni wanted his movie to be different from the norm. In a 1999 interview with Fangoria, he talked about his intent for the movie:
That was the time that Friday the 13th was about to come out, and there was alot of very gory stuff being shown on screen. I thought it might be a good idea to head a little more in the opposite direction. Otherwise it would have just meant copying each other. I felt like de-emphasizing the violence somewhat and keeping it a little less graphic, hopefully making it more genuinely frightening by allowing audiences to use their heads.
One could argue against his point, of course, when considering this scene, which is maybe just a little graphic:
Yeah, that's a head in a fishtank. But all in all, I think Mastroianni succeeded with He Knows You're Alone. By focusing more on the psychological torment of our heroine bride-to-be Amy (is she simply paranoid, or is there really someone following her...?) than on typical stalk-n-slash thrills, he imbues the movie with a subtlety often lacking in the genre.
Much like another of my favorite slashers, April Fool's Day, the film is helped along by above-average actors portraying likable characters. Gasp! Here's a horror movie that's not ironic, that's not full of obnoxious characters you're just waiting to see killed. He Knows You're Alone is also notable for the first screen appearance by Tom Hanks, as psych major Elliot. During the film, Elliot delivers a nice little monologue about fear and human nature, that we can all use when we're asked why we like all this scary stuff anyway:
Most people do...like to be scared. It's something primal, something basic. Horror movies, roller coasters...you can face death without any real fear of dying. It's safe. You can leave the movie...with a vicarious thrill and the feeling that you've just conquered death. It's a helluva first class rush.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Gleaning info about this movie from Adam Rockoff's fine book on the slasher genre, Going to Pieces, I pined for the good ol' days of horror. I could go off on a tangent here, again, wondering if the bigwigs in Hollywood will ever get it again and make some horror worth watching. Maybe I should send them this quote from Mastroianni regarding the horror climate in the early '80s as a little reminder:
That's the time when the studios would take a gamble on these low-budget independent slasher films and said, "Let's give them a few million bucks and see what we got. Take a shot." ...later on when they tried to make the big-budget horror films they didn't work...there's something about the grittiness of these independent films that the studios really couldn't duplicate because they would suddenly pump alot of money in and give it a glossier look. It felt more pretentious, it didn't feel as documentary-style.
That philosophy led to some crap on the big screen back in the day, to be sure, but it also allowed for little gems like He Knows You're Alone to be made. While the movie may not haunt your days, it's certainly worth another look- or a first look, if you're lucky. I give it 7-out-of-10 copies of Martha Stewart Weddings.