In the past, the Tribeca Audience Award has gone to big-hearted crowd-pleasers such as the family-friendly Jon Favreau feature Chef and the charming Laotian film The Rocket. This year, however, the coveted award decided by popular vote ended up with a more subdued, dark, and suspenseful film than usual: Here Alone, a stripped-down indie that follows a mysterious woman named Ann (Lucy Walters) on her terse quest to survive in the wilderness. The first half-hour of the film plays out almost in complete silence as the woman takes the proper measures to evade unseen attackers, until twin threats reveal themselves. Ann has to move without attracting the hordes of shambling zombies that roam the land in the wake of an infectious outbreak, but the fellow survivors she reluctantly joins may present an even graver danger.
The film debuted in Tribeca’s Midnight Movie sidebar and sold out all three of its screenings, building a strong word-of-mouth buzz on the merit of its subtler, more low-key approach to the zombie genre ironically threatening to devour itself as the fad fades and The Walking Dead lumbers on. Director Rod Blackhurst revitalized the typical zombie-flick mold by going back to basics, working with a shoestring budget in wooded settings and keeping the focus of his film on life lived on the fringes of society. Not only did this keep production costs low, it made the uneasy partnership between Ann and the other refugees she encounters (a teenage girl and her stepfather played by Gina Piersanti and Adam David Thompson, respectively) even more nerve-frayingly tense.
Here Alone has yet to secure a distributor, so a release date has yet to be marked on the calendar, but with the positive response and broad appeal of the concept, it shouldn’t be long before an indie outfit plucks this film from free-agency. It’ll be a refreshing change of pace for a zombie flick not to drown its audience under torrential floods of CGI, at the very least. After all, every genre needs to occasionally return to its roots to remain vital.