Pre-pandemic, Here Alone looked like a smart, spare horror film.
Post-pandemic, it suddenly looks like a lot more.
The low-budgeted post-apocalyptic thriller debuted at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. Other festival screenings and a very limited release followed, but for some reason word didn’t get out.
Available now on various streaming platforms it’s worth another look, if you dare.
Mixing “rage virus” ideas from 28 Days Later with the grim existentialism of The Road, it’s the story of Ann, a young woman living alone in the woods of upstate New York. Not long ago she had a home, a job, a family.
Now she sleeps in her car, forages for food and hides from the mindless plague victims who want to eat her.
The basic idea is familiar, but David Ebeltoft’s clever script fills in the details deftly, first revealing what happened to Ann’s family (it’s not pretty) and then throwing a curveball as she suddenly encounters two other survivors, a scruffy man and a teenage girl.
Will they all work together now, or turn on each other? How will they manage living with contagion, close quarters, and meager supplies?
Although it was made five years ago, suddenly, in the age of Covid, the film’s examination of humans under pressure feels more relevant than ever.
Director Rod Blackhurst gets the most from his own limited resources, too. The film has exactly four speaking parts, not counting occasional lo-fi bursts from a French-Canadian radio station, but each one is filled by a terrific actor, starting with Lucy Walters as our survivalist heroine and Gina Piersanti as a more-than-normally sullen teen.
High-tension scenes of the characters evading the mad monsters are intercut with fascinating, end-of-days information. You may never need to know how to throw off hungry creatures on your scent, or trap wild animals with just a box, a stick and a squirt of aerosol cheese. But after watching Here Alone you will.
Editing is quick but clean, and the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region offers a stark contrast to the ugly remains of mankind’s abandoned homes. Blackhurst is also respectful of the material, his cast and his audience; although the usual exploitation ingredients are in place – gore, violence, sex and nudity – all are handled with restraint.
Of course, there are no happy endings in end-of-the-world movies; even if global extinction is eventually averted, there are too many sacrifices – and ugly revelations – along the way for them to end on an upbeat note.
But Here Alone handles even that skillfully. Because, as its final scenes fit into place, they feel both incredibly shocking – and horribly inevitable.