It’s happened. I’ve hit that point where I cannot watch any pandemic film without doing a whole lot of screaming and crying internally…
…2020 has, without a doubt, been the worst year most of us have lived.
A major part of that is, of course, Covid-19, which has forced a lot of us to rethink what we would do during something like a zombie outbreak, and reconsider how others around us might act. Now, we have a pretty good idea. Some would cower in their homes and struggle to wait it out. Others would say the zombie virus was a hoax until it bit them on the ass. Thankfully, director Johnny Martin’s pandemic flick, Alone, explores the former.
Written by Matt Naylor, the film picks up just after an anonymous lay leaves surfer Aidan’s (Tyler Posey, rocking his best Wolverine look), apartment building. Almost the minute she leaves, Aidan discovers that everywhere from the streets outside to the hallways just outside his door have been taken over by chaos thanks to a 28 Days Later-esque virus spreading through the population that causes people to become raging cannibals, but with a twist: they can see and understand everything they’re doing, and are just unable to stop it. Trapped, alone—heh—Aidan attempts to wait out the virus, forced to fight against monsters, his crippling depression the most dangerous of them all.
That probably sounds like a massive, Donald Trump sized bummer, and for the most part, it is. For every single one of us that has had a difficult time with the isolation of quarantine, Alone hits all of those triggers and then some. We watch as Aidan goes through various stages of dealing with being trapped in his apartment, from drinking (my first step as well), to talking to himself/video blogging (that feels familiar), and admitting to himself that he has learned he is a coward (this film is in my brain!). “It’s a hell of a thing to find out you’re a coward. To know that,” reflects Aidan. I would say he’s being smart and not taking unnecessary risks, but I get the sentiment.
Much of Alone is this personal discussion on pandemics from a small-scale point of view, focusing on the internal struggles of Aidan rather than the external threat of the infected, and Posey makes it all work. The actor is tremendously sympathetic in the role, and has a way of making the pain feel real and world shattering. Early in the film, Aidan goes through something many of us have gone through, that need to talk with family and friends, only in Aidan’s case, the calls he’s receiving are calls none of us would ever want to get, and I dare you to not at least get a little something in your eye.
That theme that plays at the end of The Mist? The feeling that invokes is fifty percent of this movie.
Don’t take this is all as me saying that Alone is some kind of slow, brooding drama with a few “zombies”. It’s not. Not exactly. For every scene contemplating on humanity’s need for companionship, there is another pulse-pounding moment of terror set to a cardiac arrest score from Frederik Wiedman as Aidan is forced to leave his apartment…and sometimes forced to fight the infected that find their way in. I mentioned 28 Days Later, and the intensity of Alone is much the same at times, as we see Aidan running, dodging and swinging for his life through hallways full of infected as he desperately attempts to find food and supplies in other apartments. The film is a great example of why I personally love the “apartment horror” subgenre, because Martin is allowed to keep the story tight and claustrophobic, while also playing with various settings as Aidan comes across each new apartment, and the horror that waits there.
The horror in Alone is surprisingly effective. While the infected may feel a bit too close to those of 28 Days Later, a key difference setting them apart is the fact that they’re aware of themselves, subbing in wails of “brains” for screams of “kill me” or “help me”, over and over again, as they slash and bite at your face. These things are fast and limber, climbing the sides of buildings like parkour champions. They attack out of nowhere, making for some great scares. And at times, they are literally coming through the walls like rats and raining from the sky. The stunt performances in Alone are nothing short of jaw-dropping. No amount of barricading his apartment makes Aidan safe, which means we as the audience are constantly on edge. Pair that with gory, half-eaten limbs and bleeding eyes (a symptom of the infection), and these infected make for a chilling depiction of how maddening a pandemic can be. Being isolated is bad enough. But it’s the constant wailing of unlucky souls that most chips away at Aidan’s resolve.
Keeping things interesting are mysterious love interest in the apartment across the street, Eva (Summer Spiro), whom Aidan communicates with through signs from afar, and an overly welcoming neighbor, Edward (Donald Sutherland). Both represent different sides of what we all go through during a pandemic, as we’ve learned. On one side is Eva, a shining hope, a symbol, at least for Aidan, that there is some kind of future, some kind of normalcy, after. Meanwhile, Edward is the other side, the despair, as we learn in a gut-wrenching speech from him about what it’s like to have a companion nearly your whole life, only to have them taken away.
Alone is nothing new or original, but it’s a well-made film that perfectly alternates between moments guaranteeing heartwarming smiles and shocked gasps. It’s also a film that’s painfully real for many of us, one that stresses the importance of hanging onto hope, and how valuable it is to include others in our life, and cherish the ones we love.
And if any Posey fans are looking for icing on the cake, there’s more than a couple shots of Posey’s pandemic butt. Whatever your sexuality is, I think we can all admire a good pandemic butt right about now.
Alone is now available on Digital, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate.
By Matt Konopka