A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of catching up with my friend WAYNE SIMMONS. Wayne’s good, by the way, as a lot of you have been asking. Slightly more tattooed and bearded than you might remember, but he’s as chilled out and positive as ever. He fell out of love with the horror genre several years ago, and we’ve barely talked about it since. So imagine my surprise when he came up with a few zombie movie recommendations out of the blue. Today’s recommendation is one of those films, and it’s a movie I hadn’t heard of until Wayne told me about it. HERE ALONE is a minimalist, slow-burn horror which is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
A young woman struggles to survive on her own in the wake of a mysterious epidemic that has killed much of society, and forced her deep into the unforgiving wilderness.
You can categorise zombie movies in many ways – those that take place in the middle of the apocalypse or later in the post-post-apocalypse; big-budget, effects-heavy studio movies or low-fi indie efforts; action-packed or contemplative. HERE ALONE is definitely the latter of all of these. It focuses on Ann, a lone survivor who has lost her family to the inevitable zombie infection, and who exists in solitude. The weight of (what’s left of her) world is on Ann’s shoulders, and there’s no question that she’s struggling with that most fundamental question of post-apocalyptic life: I’m surviving, but is there anything worth surviving for? The movie picks up on a theme which I find fascinating and which I touched on a number of times through the AUTUMN series – as time moves on from the point of infection, the differences between the living and the dead steadily reduce. Eventually they’re all reduced to simply existing.
At the centre of this movie is an absolutely excellent performance by Lucy Walters as Ann. Everything she used to be before the apocalypse has steady been stripped away, and now she has a zombie-like existence in her isolated camp in a forest by a lake. Her home is the mud-covered shell of her family car. She picks grubs out of rotting tree trunks with her knife. She coats herself with mud when she goes out hunting for food, and she collects her own urine to use as a disinfectant and zombie-repellant. You get the idea: she’s good at this.
But living has clearly come at a substantial cost, and when two more survivors appear, she’s faced with a choice. Continue this solitary existence and be relatively safe, or engage with these people and start to remember who she used to be.
Director Rod Blackhurst and writer David Ebeltoft have crafted a taut and visually impressive film here. There are occasions when it drags and times when the dialogue is repetitive, but that can be overlooked. The present day events are dovetailed with glimpses of Ann’s past and the fate of her family, and whilst the switch is sometimes jarring, the payoff is rewarding. There’s nothing much here we haven’t seen before, but HERE ALONE is performed and produced with style and it’s well worth your time. Go and watch it. It’s streaming on Netflix and available from Amazon etc.
And what of my friend Wayne? Who knows. He’s in a good place and is very happy with his lot. Maybe he’ll write something again one day? Maybe not. If you’ve not come across his work before, or you missed it first time around, can I recommend his last release – a cracking science-fiction/horror yarn called XINNERS. It’s one of my great disappointments that more people didn’t pick up this book, because it’s a blast. Literally. I can best sum it up by quoting the working title: ZOMBIES IN SPACE. Who could ask for more?!