Tom Hanks is one of the most versatile and well known actors in American cinematic history. Rarely ever has he been in a movie that hasn’t been good. To paraphrase Eminem, his biggest misses are most actors’ greatest hits. For 40 years now, he has been in some of the all-time classics such as Forrest Gump, A League of Their Own, Stephen King’s The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan and the DaVinci Code trilogy. Even in his early days in the mid ’80s, The Money Pit and Splash became cult classics. Romantic comedies, action movies, children’s movies … Tom has done it all. Most don’t know that his first feature film, at the young age of 24, was a little known horror movie called He Knows You’re Alone, which released on August 29, 1980.
This retro review has SPOLIERS—be warned!
So what is He Knows You’re Alone about? It is a slasher inspired by Halloween that was filmed in Staten Island. Bride-to-be Amy Jensen (Caitlin O’Heaney: Late Phases 2014) sends her fiance, Phil (James Carroll: Girls Night Out 1982), off to his bachelor party—something Tom Hanks is familiar with—but finds herself stalked by a creepy killer, later revealed to be Ray Carlton (Tom Rolfing: Disaster at Silo Seven 1988). Amy’s two friends, Joyce (Patsy Pease: Space Raiders 1983) and Nancy (Broadway dancer Elizabeth Kemp), plan a small bachelorette party for her. Amy’s ex, Marvin (Don Scardino: Star Wars franchise), wants her back, and Joyce is having affair with her professor, Carl (James Rebhorn: Independence Day 1996). After the party, Ray decides to wipe out Amy’s crew one by one. Will Amy and Detective Gamble (Screenwriter Lewis Arlt) be able to stop him?
In all honesty, the movie itself is nothing special. The slasher genre was about to take off, and this one happened to come in between two classics: Halloween and Friday the 13th. Tom Hanks had very little to do with He Knows You’re Alone, apart from being so good at his bit role that the writer nixed his originally planned death scene.
Since it’s a slasher, we do get a bit of gore in this one. We get severed heads, stabbings, gun shot wounds, and other standard late ’70s/early ’80s practical effects.
When He Knows You’re Alone was released on August 29, 1980 in California, film critics jumped all over it. The New York Times and Boston Globe didn’t like what they saw, and one month later, it was shown in selected theaters in New York. IMDb rates it a perfectly average 5.0 out of 10. Most actors start from the bottom and work their way up, and Tom Hanks was no exception.
So now that we’ve established what Tom Hanks went on to do, what about the rest of the cast? James Rebhorn and Paul Gleason carved out nice careers as supporting actors the last forty years. Everyone remembers Gleason as Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club and Rebhorn as Albert Nimziki in Independence Day. Not only did Don Scardino become a cultural icon as Wedge in the Star Wars movies, but he has also directed some very popular TV shows such as 30 Rock, The Connors and The West Wing.
Caitlin O’Heaney has had exactly three roles since 1993, the last being a horror movie called Night of The Wolf in 2014. Unfortunately, Tom Rolfing passed away in 1990, and Elizabeth Kemp passed away in 2017 after a long career on Broadway. Lewis Arlt did a soap opera called Search For Tomorrow in 1981, but hasn’t done much since. Patsy Pease appeared in a mind-boggling 724 episodes of Days of Our Lives between 1984 and 2016. Its good to see a few of them went on to be in some of the most well known movies in the last forty years.
Its been forty years since Tom Hanks has graced the big screen for the first time. It’s nice to know he got his start in a horror movie. He’s no stranger to suspense and realistic horror with Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile. As for a final thought on He Knows You’re Alone, it’s not a bad movie, and it’s interesting to see how the slasher genre took off after Halloween. The movie is only 94 minutes long so it’s short, sweet, and to the point. Thanks for a wonderful forty years, Tom. Let’s hope there’s some more good films in store in the future.