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Horror Movie A Day: Quint KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE (1980)
Most people like to be scared. It’s something primal.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.] Today’s move is HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE, a 1980 tale about a killer stalking engaged women in the weeks leading up to their marriage. What’s interesting is tracking the influence of this film. It hit months after FRIDAY THE 13TH locked in the formula for ‘80s slasher flicks. Now, without a doubt Bob Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS influenced HALLOWEEN, which cemented the exact slasher formula. Virginal girl stalked by an unseen, almost super-human, person, etc, etc, etc. Killer POV, sex and death, you know the drill. But I think when FRIDAY THE 13th hit and came out with a sequel every year on the year it spawned a thousand ripoffs, literally taking over the slasher genre. When you watch HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE it’s clear this wasn’t a rip-off of anything besides HALLOWEEN. They recreate moments… our innocent lead girl sees her stalker when looking out the window, standing next to a hedge. She looks away and looks back and he’s gone. Another shot has her walking down a suburban street that could be Laurie Strode’s neighborhood. And then there’s the made-at-home soundtrack consisting of mostly electronic piano. The real question isn’t if this is a ripoff. It totally is, inarguably. The real question is does it have anything interesting to add to the genre or, barring that, at least offer a twisted little tale. I would say, unfortunately, that it does not. Ripoffs are my cup of tea, as I’ve stated in a previous AMAD column. One of my all-time favorite ‘80s horror movies is SLEEPAWAY CAMP which couldn’t be any more of a FRIDAY THE 13TH ripoff than it is, but the genius of that movie is to put the focus not on the counselors, but the kids. They utilize real kids, non-actors, to tell one of the most disturbingly fucked up twisted tales ever committed to celluloid. The movie is incredibly cheap, bordering on ridiculous, but if that final shot of that movie doesn’t scare you then you’re already dead, as the PHANTASM ads proclaimed. With HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE we get a very by the numbers slasher, which is isn’t unenjoyable, but hardly memorable or worth anything more than a room-temperature recommendation.

The opening tries something fun, playing with a particular favorite film gimmick of mine… the movie within the movie mind-fuck. The first scene is a horribly overacted moment between a boyfriend and girlfriend making out. They hear a noise, the boyfriend goes to investigate and it turns into a filmed version of the everybody-knows-it ghost story where the sound that drives the girlfriend out of the car turns out to be her boyfriend, hanging from a tree, swaying and thumping the car. Then the real movie is shown as we pull back and see two girls sitting in a theater watching it. One is happily munching popcorn, the other is squirming in her seat. She leaves to hit the toilet and gets the feeling someone is following her. She goes back into the theater, tells her friend who doesn’t believe her, of course, as someone sits behind her. We see him pull a knife out and at the next scare moment he stabs this girl in the back through the seat. She lets out a scream, but no one takes it as a genuine cry. She’s screaming along with half the audience. By the time the popcorn muching friend notices she’s dead, the guy is long gone.

This brings us the investigative team, led by Paul Gleason… yeah, the principal from THE BREAKFAST CLUB, a pleasant surprise. I love seeing character actors pop up unexpectedly in flicks. It’s one of the joys of moviewatching for me. Another unfortunate for this movie. Gleason is there essentially just to call in a guy obsessed with this killer. Yeah, it’s a veiled Dr. Loomis, but not anywhere near as interesting. But that’s all in the execution, to be fair. I think he is an interesting character. His bride-to-be was the first killed by this man, who we discover is her ex-boyfriend in a flashback. So, ignoring Gleason. There’s one good character actor wasted. This film also marks the screen debut of one Mr. Tom Hanks, playing a throwaway love interest for one of the lead girl’s friends. I don’t know how much of my enjoyment of Hanks’s work in this movie is me looking back with the baggage of his filmography and the personal nostalgia I get seeing him in this era (thanks to a healthy diet of SPLASH, THE MONEY PIT, THE ‘BURBS, DRAGNET and JOE VS. THE VOLCANO as a kid), but I’d like to think he stands out here. Hanks has relatively little to do, but his comic timing and personality are on full force. He’s always fucking with something if he’s in the background, always moving, always alive. Hanks has one big scene where he goes off on the importance of being scared, what it means to society. He frames it as an explanation of why people pay to scare themselves silly at amusement parks and carnivals, but does include horror films. Basically, a rollercoaster or horror movie allows us the illusion of cheating death, acting as a cathartic release of pressure. If you’ve ever heard a horror filmmaker defending his or her work against those who decry it as mindless violence and porn-like gratuitousness then you’ve heard this argument, but it’s interesting to hear it voiced actually in a horror movie, especially one from 1980 because I don’t remember that argument really hitting big until the ‘90s and more recent horror. But that’s it for Hanks. He has a few scenes, but doesn’t really play a part either way and, no, we don’t get to see him fall victim to our stalker (who shares a striking resemblence to SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE’s killer, by the way). One of the saving graces of the film is her laugh-a-minute mortician ex-boyfriend who tries to convince her throughout to break up with her jerk fiancée (off on his bachelor trip). Don Scardino plays this character and he brings a lot of life into this movie that needed it badly. Scardino now seems to direct a lot of TV, including 30 ROCK, so good for him. But once again, he’s a very, very secondary character.

The lead, Amy Jensen (Caitlin O’Heaney) is serviceable, but ultimately bland. She doesn’t have Jamie Lee’s accessibility or Heather Langenkamp’s strength, but is solid enough to not be bad in the movie. Final Thoughts: Very forgettable, but not too hard to sit through. It’s worth it for early Hanks and a couple moments of okay gore, the best of which involves a fishtank. You can also distract yourself with a game of “point out the now famous character actor” with Gleason and James Rebhorn (the asshole Veep in INDEPENDENCE DAY) as the horny professor. But no need to rush to this one if you haven’t seen it yet.

Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October: Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here! Now’s the the time to pull the next HMAD! Next up is:

Finally, I’ll get Howard Hawks’ production of THE THING in front of my eyes from beginning to end. No more clips and segments here or there for me! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate

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