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Certainly, the thought of believing you are the last human on Earth, or at least uninfected being, is a truly terrifying thought. The psychological implications are staggering and a number of recent films have taken the premise to far more serious levels of consideration, putting the emphasis on the personal trauma rather than a focus on the swarms of ‘zombies’ the genre guarantees. With the latest, Here Alone, that isolation is the central premise in a film that is both familiar with standards that have come to define these movies and yet equally challenging for what it offers.
As is typical of how these stories begin, an unexplained medical crisis has swept across the planet, quickly and savagely transforming the population into blood-thirsty, flesh-eating monsters that hunt in packs. Ann (Lucy Walters) manages to escape the unnamed New York state town where she lives with her husband Jason (Shane West) and their infant. They make it into the deep forest where Jason teaches her how to survive, though soon she is left alone, trying to use her new skills to keep alive.
Directed by Rod Blackhurst, Here Alone is not an action thriller but rather a deliberately-paced character-study that uses the zombie tropes as a peripheral catalyst to prop up the internal conflicts that arise as the story unfolds. Brief flashbacks reveal hints as to Ann’s well-protected and organized setup in the woods and how she’s became adept at staying safe. These moments offer rudimentary exposition that help to understand both how she managed to avoid infection and yet feel so vulnerable in her camp.
It’s these early stages that feel most authentic as Ann skitters about the woods like a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s “Dutch” Schaefer from 1987’s Predator, caking on mud and setting up diversions to sneak back into civilization for canned foods. These are highly-effective moments that deliver some genuine chills, despite the decidedly slow pace. Soon after, she meets a teenage girl named Olivia (Gina Piersanti) and her stepdad Chris (Adam David Thompson) during one of her hunts, and she faces a new personal dynamic, one that centers on earning trust, but also unexpected feelings of attachment and betrayal.
In many ways, Here Alone never feels likes a zombie film, they themselves barely making an appearance in the story, even as their presence is broadly felt. In fact, Ann even reminds Chris there is a horror beyond the trees they shouldn’t forget as the three seem to be experiencing a weekend camping trip per se. We witness long stretches of the simple but taxing life in the woods as the three develop contrasting relationships, the film putting emphasis on the challenges of personalities rather than the zombies themselves, the three becoming a microcosm of the plight of humanity itself.
The movie ultimately is divided into two parts running simultaneously as we witness before-and-after timelines of Ann’s horrific story, with the flashbacks most affecting as it slowly details frightening choices she must make. These can often be disturbing, especially ones concerning her infant and Walters is a wonder, determined, stoic, and emotionally-draining as she carries us through Ann’s daunting and shattering experience. It’s a great performance.
Here Alone will not be for everyone. It will test those looking for a more traditional zombie experience, but for fans of the slow burn, more drawn to the humanity of the genre than the chomping, it has plenty of rewards. A complex, often paralyzing personal drama, Here Alone is a zombie movie unlike what you expect.
Movie description: Here Alone is a 2017 sci-fi horror film about a woman who struggles to survive in the aftermath of a deadly epidemic that forces her in the wilderness.
Director(s): Rod Blackhurst
Actor(s): Lucy Walters, Gina Piersanti, Adam David Thompson
Genre: Horror, Zombie