Lucy Walters in Here Alone (Vertical Entertainment)

Here Alone posits what would happen if you removed the zombie out of a zombie movie, or what if you added zombies to a micro-indie flick. The answer seems to be none of both or a little of either, and the result is somewhat unsatisfying.

It begins compellingly enough. We open on a woman washing mud off her body in a lake somewhere deep in the woods. We see her going to a car that is camouflaged by mud. She opens up the trunk, which includes, among other things, a box of Saltines and a rifle, and she goes on to check an animal trap. The opening sequence lasts for about 20 minutes, and it’s intriguing enough because Lucy Walters is a good actress who’s genuinely invested in what she’s doing, and we are willing to give director Rod Blackhurst a pass as this is an unusually low-key way to start a horror movie. Things kick in to gear, though, when the woman heads to an empty home for supplies. We hear inhuman shrieks in the distance as she quickly raids the cabinet for canned goods.

And just when we are about to get bored, she comes across a couple, an injured young man and a teenage girl. Feeling lonely, she invites them to her camp, and we discover the woman’s name, Ann, and more details of just what happened and why she lives alone in the woods. The longer the man, Chris (Adam David Thompson), and his beloved stepdaughter, Olivia (Gina Piersanti), stay and the closer they get to Ann, the stickier things become…but still no zombies. There’s talk of zombies and what to do if they come and how to survive now that the world has gone to pot. Meanwhile, Chris gives one lovely (if gruesome) monologue that delineates his character, but the filmmakers insist in unnecessary flashbacks to elucidate Ann’s past.

And then, finally, FINALLY, there are zombies. Though even then, it’s way too late, and they are underwhelming. They look like extras who haven’t showered for a few days.

I’m short selling this a bit. The movie is compelling for a good chunk of time. The cinematography is lovely. If you’re going to have to go Survivor during an epidemic, you might as well have stunning sunsets and beautiful mountains in the background.

Also, the acting is very good. Walters is utterly believable and understated. The film also has meaningful things to say about how one handles trauma, but it gets tripped up by an indie-emo aesthetic  when the rift among the trio becomes apparent. If you are going to focus more on character than chills, then you need to have conflicts that set the film apart. The remake of Dawn of the Dead, for example, managed to have its cake and eat it, too, so to speak. Most importantly, it’s not scary. You don’t need gore (and you don’t get it), but you do need tension and suspense, and Here Alone doesn’t deliver.

Directed by Rod Blackhurst
Written by David E. Beltoft
Released by Vertical Entertainment
USA. 98 min. Not rated
With Lucy Walters, Adam David Thompson, Gina Piersanti, and Shane West