Here Alone (2016)

JUNE 21, 2017


Since I'm a lazy asshole, over the years I've seen a number of films that were more or less exactly like ideas I had and never got around to fleshing out. But I'm never too annoyed by their existence; good for them for being more productive than I am! Especially when they turn out good, as is the case with Here Alone, which is about 75% similar to an idea I had for a zombie movie that focused more on the survival elements than zombie action. Whenever we see a survivor type in a zombie world, he/she has already gotten their shelter secured, their routine down to a science, etc - I'm more interested in how they established those things, i.e. the part that usually gets skipped over.

(It's similar to how annoyed I was with Cast Away skipping four years - I want to see the whole process of him learning how to chuck a spear and kill a fish!)

Needless to say, Here Alone focuses on some of that, depicting a lone survivor (Ann, played by Lucy Walters) who lost her family somewhere along the way and is now scavenging for food, trying to stay out of danger, etc. It's a slow-paced movie that keeps zombie stuff to a minimum, but that's fine - I was legit more entertained by scenes like the one where she inspects some berries and ruffles through a little survival guide trying to figure out if they were safe to eat than I was with any of the rather generic undead action. Eventually she meets a pair of fellow survivors, a man named Chris and his stepdaughter Olivia, and things take on a more traditional "band of survivors argue about what to do next" zombie movie motif, but the focus is still on the humans and the empty world, instead of run n' gun zombie stuff that we can see anywhere.

Comparisons to the likes of The Road and Stake Land are fair; it's a bummer movie with lots of outdoor scenery accompanied by pretty music (I watched with captions and "somber orchestral music" appeared every 2-3 minutes), but if anything there's even less action than in those (well, Stake Land for sure had more - not sure about The Road, as I barely remember it and don't ever want to revisit). We got pretty burned out on the more Romero-y wannabe stuff in the past decade, so I'm fine with these more moody takes on the zombie apocalypse, but I do wish someone could find a way to do one in a suburban area, as I'm tired of looking at endless miles of trees in these things. I get that it's easier to secure a patch of woods on a low budget than it is, so I don't begrudge the indie filmmakers for going that route (this film was at least partially crowd-funded, in fact); it's more of a wish that the studios would try something in this vein. One of my favorite non-horror movies in recent memory was All Is Lost, which was nothing more than Robert Redford on a sinking boat - the zombie movie equivalent with a marquee draw like Kurt Russell or someone who isn't adverse to taking on unusual projects would be fascinating, I think.

Keeping things a little more compelling is the film's flashback heavy structure, cutting between Ann and her new friends in the present day and older scenes with her family, when the outbreak was just starting. Her husband (Shane West) teaches her a few survival skills and how to shoot, but really the main thrust of this stuff is "How did the baby die?", which is naturally kept secret until the film has almost concluded. I'm thankfully not as easily shaken by this stuff as I was in the first year or two of being a father, so this stuff, while sad, didn't leave me curled up in fetal position like it would have back then - my main personal sadness came from the little baby's cute pajamas, the kind my kid is now too big for. I miss those things! So snuggly. Anyway, nothing about this stuff will surprise you, but it makes sense why they try to sync it up with the present day events, offering something that feels like a particularly grim episode of Lost.

As for the zombie action, like I said it's nothing special, though I liked that the characters were far more concerned with simply staying out of their way than with killing them all. Ann locks herself in an ice chest at one point just to avoid ONE, even though she was in a kitchen that presumably had some knives or a rolling pin or something to ward it off. And they're often covering themselves with mud (or poop? The IMDb said poop) to hide their scent so they can get around without triggering any nearby walkers - it's an impressively inexpensive way to bypass the pricier action, and it actually makes things more suspenseful, as watching them mow down dozens of anonymous zombies would get tiresome, especially with such a limited cast. It's one thing for The Walking Dead to offer that sort of thing since people get killed off all the time, but with only three people there's only so much they could get away with before it became ridiculous that no one had been hurt/killed.

So if you like these slower kind of zombie films, it's worth seeing for sure; nothing about it is particularly unique, but it tells its simple story well, and I always, ALWAYS champion a zombie film that doesn't shoehorn in a bunch of evil humans in the third act (there is a minor human conflict, but it's far more interesting than the umpteenth "We can take the world for ourselves" kind of asshole). The score is good and Walters handles the two sides of her character (scared mom and weary loner) well, allowing the film to hold my attention where so many others have failed. I should note I had to watch it for work, and it's the first one in a while that I felt like writing about after (I see at least 2-3 every week for this job), as so many of them just leave no impression. Good to know there are these minor gems still coming my way; if I was still doing the site daily I'm sure I would have seen it, but with such a massive drop in my "intake" I always wonder how many films like this will forever pass me by. Being paid to discover one is such a win-win!

What say you?


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