EZMM 2020 Day 5.2: Here Alone (2016)

It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

We did another switcheroo last night, swapping the first Pakistani zombie film, Altered Skin for the survival horror drama Here Alone. It wasn’t a question of quality this time. I’m just cheap and thought that Altered Skin was available with Amazon Prime, but it was a rental instead. And since I just paid for One Cut of the Dead, we opted to find something on Netflix to take its place.

Written by first-time feature writer David Ebeltoft and directed by first-time feature director Rod Blackhurst, Here Alone is another post-zombie-apocalypse film along the lines of The Night Eats the World where we focus mainly on a single survivor in isolation and everyone takes it all very seriously. This time, however, instead of being locked up in an apartment building in France, Ann (Lucy Walters) maintains two camp sites in the woods of Upstate New York, where she spends her days collecting animal poop and peeing into buckets.

That sounds like I’m being facetious, but those are two main objectives she has that relate to her survival. Smearing the animal scat all over herself hides her scent from zombies. I’m not sure what pouring buckets of pee over your head does, but it’s also part of her survival protocol. Being covered in animal poop allows her to sneak around and raid abandoned houses, looking for canned goods.

Ann’s story is told through flashbacks, where we learn she, her husband Jason (Shane West), and their baby fled the city just as the zombie outbreak began – she had a bit of an early warning, being an ER nurse and seeing the infected people being brought in. Of course, being on her own now, we know something bad happened and these plot points are revealed over the course of the entire film and do a decent job of creating some narrative tension, but to be honest, I was never really engaged in that mystery since I always assume the worst and figured she had killed the baby herself.

When we finally do learn that she killed her baby, there was a moment when I thought the filmmakers were going to be daring and go full-on M*A*S*H* finale on us (extra points if you get that reference), but instead the baby gets infected – somehow – and it’s sort of a mercy killing. The character still feels terrible guilt, but they sidestepped the more interesting morally questionable idea of killing the baby because it was a liability.

Anyway, after a supply run, Ann stumbles across an injured man, Chris (Adam David Thompson) and his teenage stepdaughter, Olivia (Gina Piersanti). When her nursing instincts kick in, we get the real complication and biggest threat of the film: jealousy and teen hormones.

Don’t get me wrong. The cast is uniformly good, given what they’ve got to work with. The direction is also pretty solid, leaning heavily on the work of cinematographer Adam McDaid and the music of Eric D. Johnson. The script works best before the arrival of Chris and Olivia, though. Once the new characters are introduced, the film begins focusing on Ann’s mothering instinct and the building jealousy Olivia feels toward her, especially when her planned seduction of her step-dad gets sidelined by grown-up, backseat of a car sex – which also had me scratching my head with regards to Ann’s psyche.

This comes to a head, when at the finale, Olivia tries to kill Ann (death by zombie), but Ann escapes and then ends up murdering Chris and saving Olivia when they’re both being attacked by zombies. Apparently, her mothering instincts were too strong, so she shoots Chris instead of shooting the monsters attacking him, but still somehow saves her new surrogate daughter.

It’s not an ending that really pays off any of Ann’s character development and it sets up an ending that doesn’t feel earned as Ann and Olivia drive off toward Canada, where there may or may not be survivors. At that point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if there had been a post-credits scene with Ann holding a new baby.

I’m going to have to end this by echoing what I said after The Night Eats the World. Here Alone is a very well-made film, with solid acting, and writing (to a point). It also takes full advantage of the low-budget tradition of filming in the woods to save money, but with a cinematographer who really knows how to frame beautiful shots. Unfortunately, though, the film ends up dropping the ball and becomes a little boring and forgettable, as if it ultimately just didn’t have anything original to say and took itself too seriously at the same time.

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