(NOTE: Today's movie is not to be confused with the other 2020 film of the same name.)
Ever since 2004 when Shaun of the Dead and the Dawn of the Dead remake brought zombies back into the mainstream, the genre has been going strong... for better or for worse. Don't get me wrong, I love zombies, but I've never been shy about my opinion that the genre has gotten stale and needs to go back underground for about a decade or so.
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that tries to do something different, something fresh, and while I applaud the effort, they typically just add to the rotten steaming pile already saturating streaming sites. Too many focus on the monsters while neglecting the human element, or at least checking off enough boxes to get away with the bare minimum. Today's film is a new release that only came to my attention yesterday, and based on the trailer and cast (or rather one cast member), I decided to give it a shot as soon as it hit Vudu this morning. Let's take a look at 2020's Alone.
As the film opens, a disheveled man named Aidan is recording a video log on day 42 of a global pandemic. After signing off, he prepares to hang himself. We then flash back to the beginning of the story as Aidan wakes up to find his lover from the previous night has snuck out. He turns on the television to find a test pattern and a message from the Emergency Broadcasting System. As sounds of chaos echo throughout the apartment complex, a neighbor named Brandon forces his way into Aidan's apartment, having been bitten by crazed people outside. A newscaster reads the symptoms of a new, fast-acting disease that turns people into insane cannibals, and Brandon begins showing advanced symptoms right before Aidan's eyes. Aidan forces the increasingly violent Brandon into the hall and locks the door. Despite his efforts to contact his family, Aidan is terrified to learn that he is alone.
Aidan barricades his front door with the refrigerator and begins counting the days while he continues to attempt to make contact with his family. On the forty-second day, with hope gone and both his supplies and sanity dwindling, Aidan records what he believes will be his final vlog. As he tightens the noose around his neck, however, he catches a glimpse of a beautiful woman on a balcony across the courtyard. He's not alone after all!
Alone doesn't really invent the wheel here. In fact, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill disaster survival story. But you know what? I don't fault it for that. There's nothing wrong with using a familiar trope if it's done well, and in my opinion, Alone does just fine. Aidan's not a survivalist. He's just an average Joe plunged into extraordinary circumstances. Too many survival movies try to make the hero a natural survivor, but Aidan fucks up, and he fucks up a lot, and that's refreshing to see.
The "zombies," or rather the infected, are still very much alive and tragically aware of their nightmare existence, seemingly prisoners in their own ravaged minds as their primordial reptilian side takes control. They're not mindless. In fact, some display some remarkable problem solving and ingenuity, which raises some serious issues for their prey. Donald Sutherland delivers a fantastic performance as an elderly survivor named Edward. I've never watched a Donald Sutherland movie I didn't like, which was a driving force convincing me to drop $9.99 on this film, and I'm happy to say ol' Donald's reputation remains intact in my book.
With an all-too-real global pandemic and chaos outside our walls, Alone is a relatable and welcome October Surprise. Again, the movie doesn't break any new ground, but the presentation is impeccable. For the best experience, I'd recommend watching with surround sound or headphones. If you're tired of mindless shamblers and want a human story, give Alone a watch.