In an unexpected flourish, the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award went to a taut, lean, unfussy film about a lone woman surviving in the wild woods of upstate New York. We should mention that she happens to be on the run from virus-infected zombies — but Here Alone, a microbudget indie by first-time feature director Rod Blackhurst, is much closer in spirit to Cormac McCarthy’s elegiac The Road than any other bargain-basement schlock flick.
For starters, the film’s opening half-hour includes almost no dialogue. It follows Ann (Lucy Walters) as she coats herself in mud before embarking on a journey to a nearby house for food. Via elusive flashbacks, the film pieces together her backstory, involving an infant baby and a husband (Shane West) who are no longer in the picture. Eventually she comes upon a teenage girl (Gina Piersanti) and her stepfather (Adam David Thompson), and the three of them forge a reluctant and undependable bond.
Blackhurst, who’s directed shorts for Funny or Die and worked on the visual rebranding of Airbnb, here favors a more gloomy, plaintive tone for the genre, and builds tension through a soundtrack of pattering rain mixed with the occasional zombie gurgle — even though we almost never get a solid look at the undead characters.
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The movie’s influences include Kelly Reichardt, Michael Haneke, and the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, but Here Alone was entered into Tribeca’s Midnight Movie sidebar, where it sold out all three of its public screenings. It also walked away with the festival’s most coveted prize — a bold choice by Tribeca audiences who in the past have favored more popular fare like Jon Favreau’s Chef.
The film is currently seeking a distributor, but check out the trailer for a glimpse of its disquieting Malickian mood.