My notes on Here Alone — which screens on Monday.
The zombie/contagion apocalypse rolls on endlessly – and has mutated and metastatised to the point when films as tonally different as Ibiza Undead, The Rezort, The Girl With All the Gifts and Here Alone can broadly be said to represent the same sub-genre. This is – like The Battery – a minimalist, slow-paced essay in isolation and alienation that just happens to have a viral end of the world as a backdrop. As a post-collapse film, it’s closest in tone to The Survivalist – which dispensed with zombies altogether. Here, we hear reports of the crisis and learn of the symptoms – the first is a rash of red circles on the stomach – but the actual shambling, aggressive, contagious infected mostly don’t show up until the climax, and even that depends on living people in conflict rather than the menace of the monsters.
The film impresses most when it abides by its title and shows Ann (Lucy Waters) – first seen slathered in self-applied mud with only her striking eyes suggesting that she’s one of the living – going through the frustrating routine of surviving in the middle of a forest by a lake … setting inept traps for rabbits that never show up, experimenting with grubs on saltines as food (and getting sick), sleeping in a family car she has camouflaged, trying to use the woodcraft tips she’s scribbled down in a notebook. Flashbacks fill in a little of how she came to this spot – with her capable but doomed husband Jason (Shane West) and a baby whose absence explains her numbed demeanour – and, after a while, more people show up and she cautiously takes them in. Chris (Adam David Thompson) and his stepdaughter Liv (Gina Piersanti) also have a tragic backstory, revealed through dialogue – though director Rod Blackhurst has made a conscious decision to have the whole cast speak in hushed, intent, understated tones throughout – as if afraid to attract zombie attention – which makes some of the dramatic business almost comically earnest. The trio sort of form a family, though this also means a jealous rift as Liv finds out Ann and Chris have started sleeping together. In a quite subtle way, Ann’s mode of living becomes riskier when she starts letting the less wilderness-savvy Chris take charge of foraging expeditions … though the Thing That Goes Wrong comes from another direction.
Scripted by producer David Abeltoft. This has a cool widescreen look, and the quiet tone does eventually rack up the suspense. It’s a minor entry in its cycle, and might have been stronger without the plague victims, but it is effectively downbeat and poised. Walters gives a striking, strong physical performance – all the better for holding in the agony as the world ends.
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