Director: Rod Blackhurst
MPAA Rating: NR
Run Time: 89 Minutes
Rod Blackhurt’s feature debut Here Alone starts off interestingly enough, with a lone woman covered head to toe in mud, attempting to forage for food in the forest and peeing into a giant white bucket.
We then cut to a couple, one of whom is the woman from the earlier scene, packing their belongings and leaving a hotel room hurriedly whilst gun shots ring out in the background. The stage has been set for an unknown future where something terrible has happened. What it is and what lies in store for these individuals remains to be seen, although we can all surmise it’s not going to be pretty.
Jumping back and forth between past and present, Here Alone gradually draws a familiar narrative of the zombie apocalypse – a harsh reality in which one must eat grub-topped saltines and bathe in urine in order to avoid the blood-thirsty undead. Like many modern zombie stories, however, this film puts the survival element in the forefront of the plot and keeps the walker encounters to a minimum, instead focusing on the more intimate aspects of making a go of it at the end of civilization.
Lucy Walters plays Ann, a strong willed survivalist and the lead of the film, who happens upon a man by the name of Chris (Adam David Thompson) and his step-daughter, Olivia (Gina Piersanti), as they flee into the forest, attempting to escape the masses of people infected by a virus that makes them, get this, crave human flesh. Although Ann is cautious at first in bringing two more people into her group, she reluctantly offers them some food and shelter then gradually forms a bond with them, developing romantic feelings for Chris.
As Chris and Ann begin to open up to each other, we learn more about their tragic pasts as the flashbacks continue, giving us more dire clues as to what happened to Ann’s husband and child. Eventually past and present converge and as one might expect; things end pretty badly for everyone.
Blackhurt keeps the tone bleak, shooting nearly the entire film in a rain-soaked forest, filled with leafless trees and lifeless silence. There’s a decidedly indie look to the movie, full of artistic establishing shots and plenty of gritty handheld work, all of which work in the film’s favor.
What doesn’t work in its favor, however, is the tired premise, delivering a story not uncommon with many of the post-apocalyptic films we’ve witnessed over the last five years or so. Movies like The Road, The Survivalist, The Battery and even the Schwarznegger movie Maggie all carry the same look and feel, and unfortunately several of those are just more fulfilling viewing experiences.
Clocking in at just about an hour and a half, Here Alone is by no means a slog, but the back-and-forth timeline and relative slow pacing make it feel like it’s overstaying its welcome. The detachment I felt from the characters wasn’t helping either, which may be partially attributed to the fact that I didn’t even realize it was the same woman in both sequences until probably halfway through the film, which is due in part to my blatant ignorance but also the dark look of the flashbacks.
Here Alone is not a bad film; it’s got some solid visuals and a few harrowing moments that definitely woke me up, but the overall experience is nothing we haven’t witnessed before.