He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

Just a couple weeks ago, I did an article on Savage Weekend. That’s a much maligned slasher that often gets a bad reputation for being a poor horror film with bad characters. I didn’t have that same opinion. In fact, I rather liked it.

Or, rather, there was one particular person in the movie that I rather liked – Caitlin O’Heaney.

In the world of horror, this week’s featured flick, He Knows You’re Alone, is the one Ms. O’Heaney is best known for. She has an interesting life. She was a trained and schooled as a stage actress. She eventually landed on television in mostly guest star roles and a handful of smaller roles in film. However, before all that began, she did receive an offer from Salvador Dali to model for him for a particular project, but Dali’s wife would ultimately poo pooed the project and it was canceled. She’s also a supporter of environmental and animal rights issues. She’s also a designer of fragrances. She ultimately designed a fragrance that has some not-so-insignificant fans (including the likes of Paula Abdul and Terri Hatcher).

Generally speaking, O’Heaney is quite well-rounded, and really shows it in interviews. What’s funny is that in an interview on the Savage Weekend DVD that I have, she jokes that she doesn’t quite remember every story from the set because the actors were mostly hippies and have gotten a little older now so a combination of “good times” and age have clouded some of the memories. For as almost straight-laced she appears, she seems like the type that has really gotten to experience quite a bit. Also, don’t forget her part in Savage Weekend was quite naughty at times and she seemed to really go for it in those scenes. So I now have a lot of questions that I won’t ask, and not get actual answers to, but I will draw my own conclusions if you catch my drift.

That… That’s a fair reaction to what I just typed.

He Knows You’re Alone is a little different. This movie comes off the heels of Halloween and the explosion of slasher horror films. The movie goes for a bunch of the clichés and tropes of the slasher genre. This also includes the “final girl” trope. That’s the role that, this time around, belongs to Caitlin O’Heaney. While there is a bit of the playful cheekiness of her role in Savage Weekend, that gets shifted to her friends in the movie.

One of those friends is Marvin. Marvin is O’Heaney’s Amy’s ex-boyfriend who is trying to win her back before she gets married. Marvin is played By Don Scardino. Scardino was the lead in 1976’s Squirm. Squirm is a movie I covered on Monster Mondays at Film Seizure. It’s a somewhat popular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 too. Nowadays, Scardino is a Emmy-winning TV producer and director of shows like 30 Rock, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Law & Order among many others.

Another notable name is Elizabeth Kemp, who plays Amy’s friend Nancy. Kemp was in a handful of TV shows and movies in her acting career, but was mostly known as an acting coach who mentored Bradley Cooper and many others. She died in 2017 of cancer and had several public tributes paid to her from her students Cooper, Hugh Jackman, and Lady Gaga.

Supposedly there’s an Oscar guy in this movie too. Somebody by the name of Tom Hanks? I don’t think I recognize that name. He probably was like a costume designer or a documentary short film director or something. Oh, he’s been nominated six times, huh? Well, whatever he does, he must be good at it. He’s won twice? Ooh, how nice for him.

Before we get into the movie, I guess I should mention this movie was directed by Armand Mastroianni. Despite his name, he was born in Brooklyn. This was his first film, but then went on to do a whole bunch of work on TV miniseries and series. Some of the more recognizable TV series he directed a handful of episodes of were Tales from the Darkside, War of the Worlds, Friday the 13th: The Series, Dark Shadows, and Touched By an Angel. He even did an episode of The Dead Zone. So the guy has a great deal of experience in genre stuffs and has a great deal of announced projects on the horizon.

Our movie opens with some sweet disco tunes with a couple making out in the backseat of a car. However, the girl doesn’t want the guy to touch her bewbs. She just wants her and her boy toyto swallow each other’s faces. There’s an unseen figure outside creeping up on the car and the girl hears it. She’s a little concerned that it is her current boyfriend – that she’s cheating on. The guy decides to go out and fuck him up. However, he goes outside and is suddenly not heard from anymore because he’s been killed by the creep creeping up on the car. The girl goes to check it out and finds the dude hanging from a tree. Then the killer shows up to chase her.

However, this is a movie being watched by people in our movie!

This misdirect is just one of the few things this movie does that kind of helps this movie stand out a little more from the usual slashers of the time. We get an engaging scene full of dread (and sex) with a jump scare that isn’t so bad… only to find out it is not what we think and the tension releases. However, that’s a misdirect too. One of the girls watching the movie decides to get up and go to the bathroom to calm down. She briefly peeks at the engagement ring on her hand and smiles before deciding to chill in a stall. She hears someone walking around in the bathroom. Thinking someone is there to mess with her, she leaves the bathroom and rejoins her friend in the theater.

She tells her friend she thinks someone is following her. Her friend thinks she’s nuts and should just watch the very scary movie about a guy following a woman and trying to kill her.

As the two friends continue to watch the movie, someone slowly slides in and sits down behind the girls. He reaches into his jacket and produces a knife. He then shoves it through the back of the chair and stabs the freaked out girl, killing her. He leaves while the friend is left to deal with what’s sure to be the lifelong mental trauma of discovering her friend was killed by someone right there in the theater.

So right out of the gate, we have a really neat misdirect with the movie within the movie. We then have the tense moment in the bathroom that turns out to be a misdirect because no one was in the bathroom, or at least no one stopped the girl from leaving the bathroom and returning to the movie theater. Then we have the kill inside the auditorium at a particular scary moment in which the girl would indeed likely scream.

In addition to all that, there is an overarching theme that presents itself in these early scenes that I will get to in a bit.

The cops arrive at the scene. The investigation is basically being run by Detectives Len Gamble (Lewis Arit) and Frank Daley (The Breakfast Club‘s Paul Gleason). Frank tells Len that the girl who was murdered was getting married. Len suddenly perks up and realizes that it must be this old case he was once chasing down. Len’s fiancé was murdered on their wedding day by a guy named Ray. Len’s life hasn’t been quite the same since, but he thinks Ray is giving him another chance.

Later, we meet Amy and her fiancé Phil. Phil is heading for a bachelor’s weekend with his friends. She’s going to stay back and hang out with friends. As Phil and his friends are leaving town, Ray is coming into town and notices that Amy is about to get married. He immediately has a murder boner for Amy.

Alright, so we have coppers trying to find Ray. Ray is discovering Amy is soon to be married. Phil, Amy’s beau, is out of town for the weekend. Amy is hanging out with friends Nancy and Joyce. We good? Good. Now, what else does this movie need?

Gratuitous ballet workout.

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves!

Amy isn’t exactly excited about getting married. Phil is one of those old fashioned dudes that doesn’t want her to have a career. He wants her to quit school and just be a housewife. Besides, she isn’t exactly sure she even wants to get married. Now… Far be it for me, a divorced dude who probably should have not gotten married in the first place, to pass judgment here, but Amy’s two weeks away from getting married. I’m guessing this is a culmination of at least six months of planning and who knows how much time leading up to that. Shouldn’t she and Phil have figured all this stuff out before now? I feel like this is rushing headlong straight to divorce.

Trust me on that, guys.

We also learn that one of Amy’s friends, Joyce, is not only dating one of Phil’s friends, but is also got a little side action with one of her professors. She does it with the professor for grades. That may or may not be the best plan, especially because the professor is also married. But she does have one good point for Amy to consider… She doesn’t have to get married.

Amy goes to a fitting for her wedding dress, but doesn’t realize that she has an admirer following her. On her way to the fitting, she stops for an ice cream cone. Why? Don’t worry about it, okay? The girl wants an ice cream cone. If nothing else, it sets up an opportunity to get weirded out by Ray who is staring at her through the window. When she leaves, she is surprised by old flame Marvin (Scardino) who ends up with a chestful of chocolate ice cream.

Marvin isn’t a big fan of Phil. They didn’t get along as kids. What’s worse, is that Marvin was dating Amy and left town for a summer which left her irritated and decided to dump him. On the rebound, Amy went out with Phil, and later accepted his proposal for marriage. Marvin thinks she’s too good for him and that he has unresolved issues. One of those issues is that he’s a closet… something. The scene ends before we find out what, but it’s probably something to do with unhealthy collection of malformed Barbie dolls.

So here’s a couple more things I want to point out about this movie. If by reading this run down to this point hasn’t tipped you off yet, this movie centers around a particular event – a wedding. It’s been stated in reviews of this movie over the years that this movie isn’t centered around a location (a campsite, a neighborhood, a remote place full of crazies). Instead, it’s centered around people who are dealing with relationships. There isn’t a single person in this movie that isn’t dealing with some sort of relationship situation – getting married, mourning the death of a lover, sleeping with someone, trying to win back an old flame, or, as we will see in a bit, starting a new relationship. That’s a very central part of each of these characters’ stories.

What’s more, they aren’t just slackers or dumb kids doing dumb things. Maybe not all of these characters are doing the right thing, but they seem somewhat upwardly inclined. What I mean is that these are college students working toward what suits them best for their futures. They are talking about careers and life beyond the moment. They are thinking like adults and well-put-together people. And the best put together person of them all is Amy and she stands at the center of this story unfolding. Maybe it is Caitlin O’Heaney’s looks that makes her seem mature with a good head on her shoulders, or if it is the tone of her voice that already makes her sound like somebody who isn’t just a giggly young woman living for today and saying the hell with consequences of tomorrow. Whatever it is, I’m not looking at these characters as dummies. They seem like already fully fleshed out adults. Sure, they have drama, they have things they need to think about, and they aren’t exactly perfect down the line, but they aren’t just looking for an excuse to smoke pot and fuck like we see in a lot of slashers in the 80s.

Look, all I’m saying is that this movie, much like Savage Weekend a few weeks ago, has something at least more interesting than most give it credit for.

Alrighty, at the fitting, Amy asks the old tailor if he thinks getting married is worth it. I’m guessing he’s heard this sort of stuff before because he has some advice for her. Still, she seems very uncertain, and that hunk of an old boyfriend Marvin was around earlier making her think about all sorts of things like what Phil is hiding in the closet and whether or not she should take a ride down to Marvin Gardens. Anyway, she gives herself a long look in the mirror.

We’ve all been here, haven’t we… Just staring forlornly at ourselves in our wedding gowns…

Amy changes out of her gown and, while quite vulnerable in just her bra and panties, she hears someone in the store. Suddenly Marvin sticks his head into the dressing room to ask her to run away with him. He wants to talk to her, but she tells him to come by her place the next day at 7. Marvin leaves and just before Amy leaves the tailor’s, the old man is killed by Ray. Amy stops by the church where she’s to be married, and has a little bit of a scare as rusty water runs off the crucifix from a leaky pipe. The father talks to Amy about her second thoughts and reassures her by not reassuring her whatsoever. Meanwhile, Ray watches from above.

She comes home to a surprise bachelorette party. What goes on at the party? She gets herself a blender and some really sexy lingerie and a bottle of Tylenol. I’m not even kidding. We saw her opening the lingerie, and the other two items are on the table in front of her when Joyce says her goodbyes to go “earn herself that A” from her professor boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Detective Frank tells Len about the dead tailor. At first, Len isn’t so sure it’s our guy, but is convinced after learning that the tailor worked at a bridal shop. Len is basically obsessed about Ray because, ya know… killed his girl and such? Frank is clearly bothered by Len heading off half-cocked. However, it’s pretty clear that Frank has told someone that if they mess with the bull, they’re gonna get the horns and it didn’t seem to go over too well…

Frank gives Len 36 hours to track down and capture Ray. When another cop comes along to ask what’s going on. Frank gives the backstory of Len’s fiancé being killed and Len going nuts. Len runs down Ray from town to town and how Ray has left a trail of bodies everywhere he goes.

Back at the bachelorette party, Amy admits to liking Marvin a little bit. Nancy tells her about this guy she sees jogging each morning. Amy says Nancy should go for it. Elsewhere, Joyce and the professor, played by James Rebhorn in maybe his first and last sexy teacher role ever, are playing hide the D in the A. While they play around, Ray is outside looking in the window. Later, as the cheatin’ couple goes upstairs, Ray invites himself inside. Ray causes the lights to go out and uses the darkness as cover to attack. While the prof is checking the fuse, Joyce is offscreened. When the professor comes back upstairs he finds she’s gone all “dead fuck” on him and he’s killed by Ray as well.

The next morning, Marvin shows up at 7. You know, because Amy said come by at 7. But he is there at 7am. Because he’s a real goofball, ya dig?

Anyway, he continues to ask Amy to leave Phil and marry him instead. She sees Ray staring at her from the street, and asks Marvin for help, but by the time he gets to the kitchen, Ray’s gone. Amy is terrified and Marvin thinks she’s a little crazy. Amy, her little sister Diane (played by a very young Dana Barron, the first Audrey Griswold), and Nancy are going to the amusement park later that day and Amy invites Marvin to come along. Amy being afraid of Ray has led her to maybe soften up to Marvin a little more because she calls him by a pet name she hadn’t called him since they were together.

Len gets to the bridal shop and finds a piece of lace from Amy’s dress in the tailor’s hand. He is able to use that find out who Ray may be stalking. He gets to work on getting to Amy. Elsewhere, Amy and Nancy go on their morning jog so that Nancy can run into some dufus named Elliot. Elliot trips her so they can meet and hit it off pretty much immediately.

The story goes that Tom Hanks was so well liked in this movie as Elliot that he was spared his own death scene. Whether or not that’s really true, I don’t know, but I like to think of this from another angle. Obviously, Tom Hanks is pretty well known as an actor and multiple Oscar nominee and winner. Nancy is played by the aforementioned Elizabeth Kemp who mentored and coached several heavy hitters that got nominated for Oscars of their own. So I like to think that each scene Hanks and Kemp have together in this movie should act as a master class in acting.

While Nancy cozies up with Elliot, Amy continues her jog but suddenly feels like something is wrong. It turns out to just be another woman jogging on the same path. When Amy gets home, she was indeed followed by Ray who is waiting for his opportunity to strike. But it’s time for everyone to go to the amusement park!

In the dead of winter.

This is something else I quite like about this movie. It takes place during the dreary and drab winter. It’s not entirely unheard of to have a horror movie during the winter, but it isn’t something that you see too often. Friday the 13th was always, seemingly, during a time of warmth (like a summer camp setting). Naturally, any movie using Friday the 13th as a template followed suit with a camp setting and, therefore, the weather that matches it. Halloween was a colder weather horror movie but fittingly at Halloween, so more like the autumn. He Knows You’re Alone uses the cold weather to, I think, great effect.

Listen up, dummies, here’s the 4-1-1… This movie has these swirling ideas in the plot. One, the idea of relationships. I talked about that earlier. The characters are all intertwined in some way with someone else. They are all dealing with various emotions and attitudes that come with love and infatuation and friendship. Love and more positive feelings tend to fall more on the emotional spectrum that are most commonly related to “warmth”. That’s being juxtaposed to the cold of what appears to be winter. Love and hope spring eternal and are usually shown in spring and summer when things are coming alive or are at full bloom. Here, we have the winter in which things are cold, dead, and there’s a haze of shorter days and longer nights that tend to lead to feelings of loneliness. Elliot talks about fear and how it gives people the thrills and chills of danger without actually being in danger. That, too, can be helped colder weather creating tension in the body as the wind and chills can cause goosebumps to appear similarly to fear.

And then there’s a bit of revenge happening too. Marvin is sort of looking for revenge on Phil for stealing Amy from him. Len is looking for revenge on Ray for killing his gal. Revenge tends to run counter to feelings of joy and happiness and love. Besides, if there’s one Klingon proverb that every single one of us should know is that revenge is a dish best served COLD.

One last thing before we get back to the movie – who the hell goes to the amusement park in the winter? That seems like a terrible time to be whipping around on rides.

Amy and Diane go on the house of horrors ride at the park while Elliot and Nancy decide to go back to his place to play some “backgammon”. Though, to be fair, I’m not sure if that’s what they are actually doing or not because Nancy says she doesn’t like to play games. I can’t say for sure what Elliot and Nancy are getting up to, but it’s something. That night, Amy has to take Diane to a sleepover, but is worried about being alone. Nancy offers to cancel her plans with Elliot to stay with her. Just after the sisters leave, Nancy is left alone when a very clever shot occurs.

Before Nancy checks on a noise outside…

After Nancy checked on a noise outside…

I guess you know what this means… No more backgammon at Elliot’s. While Amy is on her way home from dropping Diane off, she’s chased by a car following her. She thinks it is the mysterious man she’s been seeing all weekend, but it is actually Detective Len. She is able to lose him, but, unfortunately, she’s not able to get home in time before Nancy is killed after taking a shower and relaxing with some pot and a fish tank.

Which does sound and look really relaxing.

With the death of Nancy, we’re now at the final fifteen minutes and climax of He Knows You’re Alone. Amy comes home to find some of her goldfish on the floor and Nancy’s head in the tank. She backs away in horror only to run into Ray. She runs out of the house and gets in her car and is able to escape. Well, sort of… Dude is on top of her car and brakes the window which causes her to wreck. He’s thrown off the car but she’s able to stay ahead of him.

She happens to be near the county coroner’s office – this is where Marvin works! He tries to convince her that no one is after her until he hears some noise that makes him realize that she’s on the level about all this. Marvin has Amy call the cops while he checks things out. She’s able to get through so she checks on Marvin. Meanwhile, Len is at Amy’s and calls in Nancy’s homicide. This leads the cops to tell him where they just got a call from Amy at.

And so here we are… Marvin trying to stalk Ray who is stalking Amy who is looking for Marvin. All the while, Detective Len is getting to the morgue to save the day. While in the morgue, Amy sees the body of Joyce and is attacked by Ray. As she runs away from him in the never-ending corridors of the morgue, Len picks up the trail and follows. Amy gets cornered, but luckily Len caught up and shoots Ray before he can stab and kill her.

Len tries to get Amy to leave, but Ray gets up and stabs Len in the heart killing him. So… I guess no revenge for Len, eh? But let’s not forget that Marvin is still around! There’s a close call with Ray but she’s able to free herself with a scalpel and the cops arrive to nab Ray.

Flash forward to Marvin and Amy’s wedding day. I’m guessing this is after the years of professional help Amy needed. While Marvin gets ready, Amy is getting ready herself. As she is about to leave her dressing room, she stops and asks, “Phil, what are you doing here?” before it freeze frames and you hear her scream.

That leaves the one question… Did Elliot ever find someone to play backgammon with?

I quite like this movie. For all the reasons I stated above, but also for the fact that it is just a fun little slasher. What makes it strangely more watchable is that it is not tied to any particular day or time of year. I mean, yes, it is taking place seemingly during the winter, but it’s not a Christmas movie or something happening around Halloween or even on a Friday the 13th. It just is a slasher movie. It’s not particularly generic either. Like I said, these aren’t dumb stoner kids just looking for excuses to get high and fuck. These are adults doing things in between getting high and fucking.

Plus, I really do love Caitlin O’Heaney. She’s the type of girl I would have turned into a Marvin for too. She’s cute, she seems quite intelligent and what have you. All those things said, you can see she has a personality that she likes to inject into her roles in this and Savage Weekend. I think that also makes her a good match for Don Scardino. He too always seems to insert extra personality into the roles I’ve seen him play. It probably doesn’t hurt that she reminds me of the love of my life.

But that’s probably a story for another time.

Again… A fair reaction to what I just typed.

Okie dokie, upwards and onwards, eh, Enemaniacs? Tomorrow, hop on over to the B-Movie Enema YouTube Channel for your weekly dose of B-Movie Enema: The Series. We’re getting down to the final four episodes of season numero uno! This week, I revisit yet another of the earliest movies ever covered on the blog with the wonderful giallo The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. Be sure to check that out!

Next Friday, we got a new article right here at the website. I’m gonna go north of the border for a Canadian exploitation horror directed by Ivan Reitman and starring a couple notable comedic stars of the TV series SCTV… And that movie just so happens to be Cannibal Girls! Make sure you get yourself back here in seven days to check that out! You can always follow the blog on Twitter or on Facebook so you can be notified of new articles as they release!

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