I tend to take notes when I sit down to watch a movie for review. I open up my note taking app and I jot down moments or thoughts about the film that affect me one way or another. If I showed you my notes on Here Alone you’d know from the random words and phrases I managed to put down that I really enjoyed it, but you’d also be spoiled on every major plot point the Here Alone throws at you. So I’ll try to extrapolate what I have here into complete sentences and let you why I liked Here Alone so damn much.
Right up front, I’m struck by the exquisite presentation in Here Alone. Set almost entirely in the wilderness, Here Alone does a pitch perfect job of making me feel isolated. As someone who can appreciate loneliness from time to time, the wide shots of rolling hills and dense forest are very disarming. Only a few minutes in and I’m really excited to see what this movie has in store. We meet our protagonist Ann living in and out of her car and hunting with a can of Easy Cheese. I know a little about how long she’s been there, and I can tell she’s already used to being on her own. A lot of time in Here Alone is spent in silence watching Ann navigate her world, but it’s never boring. What Ann is doing from moment to moment is interesting, she’s setting up traps, she’s preparing for raids (ala The Last of Us), she’s doing what someone in her position alone in the woods would be doing.
That brings me to my favorite thing about Here Alone, it’s such a grounded story with grounded characters. Writer David Ebeltoft understands there is something naturally interesting about people watching even when what they’re doing is seemingly mundane or simply ordinary. Not that there is anything ordinary about the situation. A viral outbreak causes the downfall of civilization as we know it and the human population is scattered about. Some survivors are trying to exist in this harsh new reality, while others are drawn to a mysterious radio message that beckons them north. Here Alone is filled with interesting bits that are very human and manages to ground a zombie story in a way that would make The Walking Dead jealous.
Before I make that comparison I’ll say upfront I’m not a huge Walking Dead fan, I prefer my viral outbreak stories to be more like The Last of Us or 28 Days Later. I want a certain amount of logic to my character’s decisions, something The Walking Dead lacks from time to time. In Here Alone characters react to each other, and do things that are believable and as more of their humanity is revealed their actions and reactions make much more sense. All this talk about characters, you might be able to guess but there is a very small cast in Here Alone. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Each relationship that gets built is used to great effect. I don’t want to reveal much more because they’re each unique in their own way but I will say the characters across the board hit their mark with strong performances. There isn’t a weak link in the bunch. Each character carries subtle acknowledgment of guarded brokenness that really drew me in.
Our main character played by Lucy Walters is absolutely perfect as Ann. The way the story in Here Alone unfolds we’re able to see the before and after of Ann’s “badassery” and it’s really striking but still completely within the realm of her character to become who she is in the present. She comes off a bit Lara Croft-ish in that her fight to survive has molded her into a different person than when she first entered the wilderness but it’s not such a departure where she’s unrecognizable. Lucy Walters is subtle but fierce. Her physicality in this role as Ann makes her believable as someone that will be alive while someone like me would be worm food within a month. Her transformation into this survivalist is due in large part to her husband Jason who we see early on training Ann hard on shooting and hunting. A relationship that will haunt her throughout the film.
If I had a gripe in Here Alone it would definitely be the editing. While I have no complaints about the pacing of events and how everything happens, There are more than a few scenes that confused me as to their order in the timeline of the story. This is a minor quibble overall but I’d be remiss not to mention it. When I look back to my notes I have on two separate occasions thought one thing was happening in present time while the movie was actually flashing me back in time. That is unfortunate.
Beyond some pacing issues, there isn’t much I’d change about Here Alone. The moment to moment intrigue about what’s going on and everyone’s intentions is really arresting. For example, there is a scene in a car between two characters, while a third sits silently. The exchange feels intimate and a connection is clearly made. It was that much more interesting to see the third person of the trio come to that same realization. It’s a subtle thing but adds to the world, story, and characters that I really enjoy. The human drama of Here Alone is entirely worth the price of admission.
If you’re wondering why zombies are being mentioned now, eight paragraphs in that should tell you how important I thought they were to Here Alone. There’s nothing particularly interesting about this breed of infected. The zombie rules of Here Alone are shown but barely explained. We can see that they’re attracted to blood, and mud plays some role as well, but I didn’t really get it (If you do get what I missed with the mud, do me a favor and tweet me, thanks.) It’s pretty standard zombie fare, and that may turn some people off. I want to go on record and say it didn’t bother me at all, but this also leads me to a bigger problem some people may have. Here Alone isn’t very scary. It can be intense at times, and it is mysterious but if you are looking for a horror movie that tries to scare you, this isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you are in the mood for a different type of horror movie that shows us the reality of a viral outbreak in as human a way as possible, Here Alone is a must watch.
Here Alone is essentially a zombie movie. It hits the familiar tropes of its genre but manages to tell it’s far more fascinating story against it. Because of that its better described an essential zombie movie instead. No seriously, go watch it.
Here Alone is out now in select theaters and on demand.