Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
BCHFF ’16: Here Alone
zombie horror sub-genre has always been strangely hospitable to social
commentary, starting with the granddaddy of them all, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and continuing
through Yeon Sang-ho’s animated-live action duology Seoul Station and Train to Busan. It is a tradition worth exploring before you snidely turn up your nose
at it. Frustratingly, director Rod Blackhurst and screenwriter Ebeltoft were so
determine to make an anti-zombie zombie film, they made a point of jettisoning
everything that conventionally goes with the shuffling hordes, including tacky
things like action and suspense. Brace yourself for a lot of staring off into
the distance throughout Blackhurst’s Here
which screens tomorrow at the 2016 Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival in
a film is selected by a festival named after Sam Raimi’s crony with the lethal
chin, patrons will probably assume it has a certain level of energy and attitude.
Unfortunately, both are profoundly lacking here. Instead, Here Alone (also an award-winning selection at this year’s Tribeca)
fancies itself more of an existential survivor’s tale, but its insights are
either prosaically on-the-nose or rather questionable.
zombie apocalypse has basically kneecapped human civilization, so Ann has gone
native, living rough in the woodlands of upstate New York. She was taught
survival skills by her late husband Jason, before the doomsday infection
claimed him too. Now she a solitary existence, tormented by guilt over some
mysterious tragedy. Oh by the way, did we mention she and Jason also had an
infant daughter, who doesn’t seem to be around anymore. You don’t suppose that
could be related?
days of foraging grubs and berries are interrupted by the arrival of Chris and
his bizarrely petulant step-daughter Olivia. As she nurses the wounded man back
to full strength, she starts to feel a human connection again. She finds she
likes it, but Olivia—not so much. Frankly, this kind of perverse jealousy in
the face of apocalyptic horror is pretty familiar by now, yet it never really seems
convincing. If ever there is a time to put your feelings aside and get with the
collective program, it would be during a zombie uprising. Still, the
self-defeating emotions seemed more believable and rawer in a film like
Christoph Behl’s The Desert, for
Here Alone does not show us the
zombies until the third act, yet when they finally arrive, they manage to be a let-down.
Apparently, Blackhurst found the whole business so distasteful, he skimped on
the establishing shots. One minute Ann is handcuffed to a cabinet, they next
she is running free as the wind. Regardless how you feel about tick-tock action
movie mechanics, that is just sloppy filmmaking.
If you are intrigued by the psychological ramifications
of solitary survival, Into the Forest is
a much better film. Granted, it does not have any zombies, but that is only
slightly less than what you will find in Here
Alone. Of course, it is possible to make a brooding, revisionist zombie
movie. Henry Hobson’s Maggie (starring
Schwarzenegger) is an excellent film and Sabu’s Miss Zombie is one of his masterworks—perhaps even a flat out
masterpiece. In contrast, Here Alone expects
originality points it does not deserve for merely sulking in the woods. Not
recommended, Here Alone screens
tomorrow (8/21) at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival.
Labels: BCHFF '16, Zombies