Two-time Oscar winner, and four-time Golden Globe winner, is just a snippet of the accolades that Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) has received during his illustrious career in film. Hanks, like everyone who has gone on to achieve greatness in their profession, had to start somewhere. Hanks made his film debut in “He Knows Your Alone.” The character he portrayed was Elliot, a college freshman, who is majoring in psychology, and has been running the same trail for some time. He is attempting to work up the courage to ask Nancy (Elizabeth Kemp), who he sees running the same path, on a regular basis, out on a date.
“He Knows You’re Alone” begins with a man (Russell Todd), and his girlfriend (Debbie Novak), fooling around inside a car. A noise is heard by the girl, who believes her ex-boyfriend might have followed the couple to where they have parked. The man gets out to investigate and is subsequently killed. As it turns out, while it is the beginning of the film, it really isn’t the beginning of the storyline, because when the camera pulls back, it is revealed to the viewer, that what is being shown, is a movie within the movie. Marie (Robin Tilghman) is not a fan of horror films, so she leaves to use the restroom. When she returns, she asks her friend Ruthie (Robin Lamont) if they can leave, but Ruthie is into the movie, so she wants to stay until the end. Ruthie’s decision will wind up costing Marie her life. Sitting directly behind her is a man, whose identity the viewer will soon learn. He waits for the very moment when the audience screams to stick a knife in Marie’s back. This is not merely a filler scene designed to open the movie, but instead, does a good job of setting in motion what is to come.
The plot for “He Knows You’re Alone,” which is parts horror and thriller, is rather straightforward. Ray (Tom Rolfing) is a jilted lover who was left on his wedding day by his bride-to-be. The incident doesn’t sit well with him, so much so, that he begins to kill brides before their nuptials. One particular bride that he murders, was the fiancée of Detective Len Gamble (Lew Arlt). Detective Gamble tracks Ray for months, as his body count of would-be brides rises exponentially, but Gamble doesn’t manage to catch the serial killer. Amy (Caitlin O’Heaney), soon to be married to Phil (James Carroll) who has gone away for a weekend of bachelor fun with his friends, has caught the killer’s attention. Amy begins to suspect that someone is following her, but her friends believe it is just pre-wedding nerves. Complicating matters, is that Amy is seemingly still interested in her ex-boyfriend, Marvin, played by two-time Emmy winner Don Scardino (30 Rock). He lets it be known that he’s still interested in her, and that it is not too late to back out of her wedding and run away with him. (As an aside: Gamble’s partner, Detective, Frank Daley, is played by Paul Gleason, who is most known for playing the unlikable, assistant principal, Mr. Vernon, in the 1985 film “The Breakfast Club” which was written and directed by John Hughes. Furthermore, fans of the soap-opera, “Days of our lives” might recognize the character of Joyce, played by Emmy nominee Patsy Pease, who portrayed Kimberly Brady on the series).
Will Ray eventually be caught by Detective Gamble? Does Amy make it to her wedding day with Phil? Can Marvin convince Amy that Phil is not the right man for her? How many people will fall victim to Ray before he is stopped? Will he be stopped? All of those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.
“He Knows You’re Alone” was directed by Armand Mastroianni (The Clairvoyant), with a script written by Scott Parker (Die Laughing). The film premiered in America on August 29, 1980. In addition to Tom Hanks, Emmy winner Dana Barron made her screen debut in the film. For those of you, who may not be familiar with the name, she played Audrey Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Furthermore, in the original script, Hanks’ character Elliot, was supposed to be killed, but he was so well liked on the set, that the writers and producers agreed to remove his death from the film. The music composed by brothers Alexander and Mark Peskanov which is heard throughout the film is “Halloween” inspired. There were moments while watching, that I thought I was going to hear the full iconic John Carpenter theme music from his 1978 horror classic. Filmed for fifteen days on Staten Island, New York, with an approximate budget of $250,000, the film went on to gross approximately five million dollars.
For a film with a body count that approaches double digits, it isn’t gory. Instead it relies on character development, back-story, and suspense, which elevates it above a standard slasher movie. From a cinematic historical perspective, I wanted to see the film because it was Tom Hanks’ screen debut. In the interest of full disclosure, for those of you who might want to watch the film for the same reason, Hank’s screen time is limited, and he doesn’t make an appearance until approximately one hour into the film, which has a runtime of 94 minutes. I am not going to claim that “He Knows You’re Alone” is a great film, because it is not, but it isn’t a bad film either. I primarily watched it to see Hanks’ debut, small as the role was, but the overall film did hold my interest from start to finish.