Producers: Rabih Aridi. Johnny Martin and Anne Jordan Director: Johnny Martin Screenplay: Matt Naylor Cast: Tyler Posey, Summer Spiro, Robert Ri’chard and Donald Sutherland Distributor: Lionsgate
The zombie apocalypse strikes again, with middling result, in long-time stuntman Johnny Martin’s “Alone.” In what amounts, for the first half or so, to a solo movie, Tyler Posey plays Aidan, who learns from frantic breaking news TV reports about a pandemic sweeping the globe that turns people into mindless, screaming, cannibalistic savages.
And they’re not the lumbering type of zombies familiar from “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Walking Dead.” These are the speedy, athletic “28 Days Later” type, a much more dangerous variety.
Aidan barricades himself in his high-rise apartment and hunkers down. In the process he refuses to help Brandon (Robert Ri’chard), a neighbor who’s already been attacked, pushing him into the hallway to face certain doom. And he has to deal with confronting long-distance the loss of his parents and sister, unable to connect with them in person before the lines of communication go silent.
It’s no wonder Aidan becomes depressed, sliding into a life of sloth and even becoming suicidal.
What saves him from taking his own life is discovering that a woman living in an apartment across the courtyard has escaped infection too. He’s able to make contact with Eva (Summer Spiro), bolstering his spirits so much that he even shaves off the beard he’s let grow in his indolence. He also uses his building’s air vents to crawl into other apartments to collect food and bottled water. In one he fortuitously finds an array of rock=climbing equipment that he uses to pass supplies across the courtyard to Eva and, in the event she needs help, make his way to her himself.
Thus far “Alone” frankly been trending downhill, with the claustrophobic atmosphere and sketchy characterizations growing increasingly tedious. Luckily a veteran shows up to enliven things. It’s Donald Sutherland , who plays Edward, a smooth-talking, genteel old fellow Aidan encounters on one of his apartment raids. Edward—who admits he’s broken into the apartment himself—shares the food in the cabinets with Aidan and spins out reams of small talk, apologizing if he’s getting too personal. He seems totally harmless if a bit batty, and yet…
Without revealing how Aidan’s time with Edward works out, it can come as no surprise that “Alone” culminates in a frightening confrontation between Aidan and Eva, on the one hand, and a bunch of screeching zombies on the other. Martin’s stunt experience must have come in handy as pursued and pursuers nimbly scamper up and down walls, across courtyards on ropes, and through hallways.
That final burst of action cannot, of course, whatever its outcome, make the ending of the movie any less bleak, and given the experience we’re now going through, “Alone” may prove dispiriting viewing for many who are still hunkered down themselves, even if they might find some comfort in the fact that at least ravenous cannibals are not waiting outside. And it does celebrate the persistence of the human spirit, in the same way “The Walking Dead” does.
In any event, it provides a plum role for Posey (MTV’s “Teen Wolf”), and, no doubt, employment for the doubles who must have tackled many of Aidan’s more dangerous exploits. Spiro is given far less to do. But it’s Sutherland, with his slightly skewed smile, affected diction and mischievous air, who steals all his scenes, bringing a touch of mordant humor to what is otherwise an awfully serious business. He’s truly a character actor in the fullest sense of the term.
Apart from the cinematography and editing in the action scenes (by Marim Vian and Phil Morden, respectively), “Alone” is no great shakes technically; Eric Weiler’s production design is no more than workmanlike, and Frederik Wiedmann’s score pumps things up predictably.
But the movie’s most serious debit is that we’ve been here before, and often. It’s familiar territory trod reasonably well but, except for Sutherland’s turn, without any particular distinction. Still, if that doesn’t bother you, feel free to fraternize with the zombies again; at least it takes a bite for them to infect you.