I think reading Max Brooks’s World War Z on the A-train as I commuted to and from the Tribeca Film Festival put me in the wrong frame of mind for the Rod Blackhurst-directed “Here Alone.” The film takes place in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, yet there are only a few scenes with any zombies in them. The entire feature is a meditation on loss and loneliness as it follows Ann (Lucy Walters), the sole survivor of her family. She lives a solitary existence in a nondescript forested wilderness so featureless it could potentially be any forest anywhere in the world if Ann didn’t speak English with an American accent. In the midst of her exile, she runs across two more survivors named Chris (Adam David Thompson) and Olivia (Gina Piersanti), a step-father and daughter who remind her of her lost family. As one becomes three, Ann must make the decision of whether or not she can trust or love again.
I said that reading World War Z was the wrong book to read before watching “Here Alone,” but it’s not because the former contains massive battles, grisly violence, and tons of visceral gore. It’s because in World War Z things actually happen. “Here Alone” feels like a ninety-minute compilation of filler material. The first thirty or so minutes feature almost nothing other than Ann sitting in the woods in silence, reminiscing on the last days with her family, and exploring nature. I’m not saying that zombie films can’t be introspective and pensive. If anything, I applaud Blackhurst for taking a chance with a genre so associated with frenzied carnage. But the film left me feeling empty and hollow. Blackhurst’s rigid objectivity kept me isolated from any of the characters. By the end I felt like I neither knew Ann nor understood her. I didn’t sympathize with her pain, cheer for her successes, mourn for her losses. Her backstory was trite and clichéd—the only bright spot of originality involved a scene where Ann fed her infected baby milk mixed with her own blood. Chris and Olivia don’t fare much better. Chris’s romance with Ann was tepid, Olivia’s mommy issues and resentment towards Ann uninspired.
I understand what Blackhurst was trying to do. You don’t need action to make a movie about zombies interesting. But without any emotional connection to the characters, it hits with the impact of a deflated balloon.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nate Hood is Screen Comment’s main film critic in New York. Follow him here @NateHood257