Review: ‘Alone’ (2020), starring Tyler Posey, Summer Spiro and Donald Sutherland

October 16, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tyler Posey in “Alone” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Alone” (2020)

Directed by Johnny Martin

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the horror flick “Alone” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A bachelor who lives alone in an apartment fights to stay alive during a zombie apocalypse.

Culture Audience: “Alone” will appeal primarily to people who like zombie movies that are heavy on suspense but light on character development and a logical plot.

Summer Spiro in “Alone” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

There have been so many movies that take place during a zombie apocalypse that any new movies that come along have to offer something truly unique to stand out from the pack. Despite many suspenseful moments and some fairly good acting, “Alone” (directed by Johnny Martin) falls very short of developing well-rounded characters and has too many implausible elements for it to be considered a superb zombie movie. It’s the type of horror movie where viewers still won’t know much about the main characters by the end of the movie, compared to when the characters were first introduced in the film.

This “Alone” movie should not be confused with director John Hyams’ stalker thriller “Alone,” another horror movie that was also released in 2020. Matt Naylor wrote the “Alone” zombie flick screenplay. And it’s the same screenplay that director Cho Il-hyung adapted into the South Korean movie “#Alive,” which was released in South Korean theaters on June 24, 2020, debuted on Netflix on September 8, 2020. (Naylor and Cho are credited with writing the “#Alive” screenplay.) This is a case where the American movie version of the same screenplay is far inferior to the South Korean movie version that was released first.

The zombie flick “Alone” immediately starts with the zombie plague spreading throughout the world. The movie takes place in Los Angeles, where a tattooed bachelor in his late 20s named Aidan (played by Tyler Posey) wakes up in his bed next to a woman who’s about his age and who had a sexual encounter with him the night before. This woman is never identified by name, and it’s never explained how he met her or how long he’s known her. But later in the movie, Aidan essentially says that she was never his girlfriend, so viewers have to assume that she was just a fling.

As soon as she leaves, Aidan looks out from the back balcony of his high-rise apartment building and sees a girl on the street getting attacked by zombies. And then, he sees a helicopter crash into a building. From that moment on, all hell breaks loose. You’d think a zombie plague like this would spread a lot more gradually. But no. In this movie, the plague literally spreads everywhere within minutes, and the entire world is caught off-guard.

The next thing you know, zombies are everywhere outside and in the hallways of the apartment building. Aidan frantically turns on the news and sees the newscaster report that people should hide, preferably inside, and stay in that hiding place for as long as possible. Phone service is intermittent and it eventually becomes unavailable. And eventually, electricity, Internet service and running water/indoor plumbing become unavailable too.

Before the phone service no longer becomes an option for Aidan (he eventually gets an “all circuits are busy” message every time he tries to use his phone), he checks his voice mail and finds out that his parents have barricaded themselves in an office building, while Aidan’s younger sister has escaped to try and go to the family cabin. (In “#Alive,” the isolated protagonist is younger and he lives with his parents and his sister.)

One of the biggest plot holes in “Alone” is that the zombie plague spread so quickly, and yet there are no signs of the military or law enforcement trying to fight the zombies in an effort to save people’s lives. This lack of government defense in “Alone” is absolutely illogical, because when the military and police are nowhere to be found during a zombie apocalypse, it’s usually after a certain period of time when resources are depleted and the military and law enforcement have given up trying to fight off the zombies. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help, Aidan spends the majority of the movie by himself.

Early on when the zombie apocalypse hits, Aidan lets in an agitated neighbor named Brandon (played by Robert Ri’chard), who (not surprisingly) has been bitten by a zombie and quickly turns into a zombie while he’s in Aidan’s apartment. Aidan is able to get Brandon out of the apartment in time, but the hallways are filled with zombies that keep pounding on the door and trying to break into apartments. Aidan barricades his front door with his refrigerator.

These are not slow-walking zombies, like the ones in director George Romero’s 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.” The zombies in “Alone” run quickly, they’re all starving for human flesh, and they blurt out and repeat things like “Kill me,” as if they consciously know they’re doomed and want to be put out of their misery.

Another terrifying thing about these zombies is that they will only eat humans who are alive. Dead human flesh means nothing to them. They are also sensitive to sound and will run in the direction of any noise.

“Alone” does a pretty good job of making the zombies in the movie very gruesome-looking. They also have an extra-creepy factor because they can still talk, even after they’ve fully become zombies. In most zombie stories, the zombies lose their ability to talk. However, because so much of the movie is centered on Aidan being alone, it’s disappointing that so little effort is put into showing who Aidan really is as a person, except for being a scared guy who lives by himself.

The movie never mentions what Aidan does for a living, and the only hobby he’s shown to have is surfing, because he has a surfboard in his apartment. It’s implied that he’s plays rock music, because of the electric guitar he has in his apartment, but is it just a hobby or is he a professional musician? The movie never gives an answer to that question, nor does it reveal anything significant about Aidan’s past. There’s a scene where he looks at some family photos and a video of his mother on Hollywood Boulevard, but that’s it.

Early on in the movie, when Aidan knows that he’s going to have to spend a great deal of time by himself, he starts making video blogs, also known as vlogs. In one of the vlogs, he mentions that this is the first time in his life he’s been alone for an extended period of time. And yet, the movie never gives a sense of Aidan having any friends whatsoever.

The movie wants to give the impression that Aidan is an extrovert who’s used to being around people and has an active social life. And yet you’d never know that he’s an extrovert, because Aidan is never seen mentioning anyone else in his life who’s important to him, besides his family. There are also no pictures of Aidan with anyone besides his parents and sister. It’s one of the many ways that this movie isn’t very well-thought-out and has too many inconsistencies that aren’t explained.

At another point in “Alone,” a female zombie ends up in Aidan’s apartment, and he hits her on the head with a baseball bat and presumably kills her. (Bashing a zombie’s head is the main way that zombies are killed.) Instead of removing the zombie from his apartment (he could’ve easily thrown the body off of the balcony if he didn’t want to open his front door where zombies are roaming the hallways), Aidan instead puts the zombie in a crawl space whose door opens from his bathroom ceiling. He then puts an upright surfboard underneath the crawl space door to keep it shut.

Later in the movie, Aidan becomes really desperate for food, but he doesn’t want to go outside in the building hallways , which have zombies everywhere. He also lives too far above ground to jump from his balcony. And so, he goes in that crawl space to see where it leads, with the hope that it will lead to a safe apartment that has food.

But the zombie corpse that Aidan put in the crawl space is nowhere to be seen. And the crawl space looks very unrealistic: It’s immaculate with stainless steel floors and walls. It doesn’t look like a crawl space in an apartment building, which realistically would be dusty and dirty. It looks like a slick, high-tech tunnel. In other words, the movie’s continuity and production design lack realism.

The first third of the movie drags with Aidan repeatedly bemoaning the fact that he’s by himself. If this movie’s screenplay had been written better, this period of isolation could have given viewers more insight into Aidan’s personality and the life he had before the zombie apocalypse. But all viewers get is Aidan rambling to himself about how he hates being alone while he makes another video entry in his vlog.

Aidan keeps track of how many days he’s been in isolation, which number at least 45 days, and in one video entry he says he’s three days away from running out of food. However, Aidan conveniently has plenty of water in bottles. It’s a stash that comes in handy not just for himself but for someone else he meets later in the story, when the movie picks up its pace and gets more interesting.

One of the movie’s major inconsistencies is that although Aidan eventually runs out of food after nearly two months of isolation, he never looks like he’s lost any weight. There’s a scene much later in the movie where Aidan is shirtless after he’s been malnourished for several weeks, and his chiseled, healthy-looking body looks exactly how it was when the zombie apocalypse started. Granted, “Alone” is not an Oscar-caliber film where the actors do Method acting and lose a scary amount of weight in real life, but the filmmakers didn’t put any effort into making Aidan look more gaunt, either through makeup or any visual effects.

Eventually, Aidan becomes so despondent that he hangs a rope on his ceiling and looks like he’s about to commit suicide. This suicide attempt is shown in the movie’s opening scene as a flash-forward of what’s to come, and then shown again when it actually happens. Just as Aidan tightens the noose around his neck, he looks outside his balcony window and sees a pretty blonde woman who’s about his age in the apartment building directly across from his building, and her apartment is slightly below eye level from his.

Aidan is so overjoyed at seeing another living human that he jumps (and nearly strangles himself in the process) and rushes over to communicate with the woman through a serious of hand-written messages and hand gestures. They don’t want to talk out loud to attract the attention of the zombies. Viewers will have to suspend disbelief that it took this long for Aidan to see this neighbor.

The woman in the other building is named Eva (played by Summer Spiro), and she is also single and by herself. In yet another unrealistic aspect of the movie, Eva looks very polished for someone who’s been in a zombie apocalypse for several weeks where there’s no running water or electricity. Except for her hair being slightly uncombed, she doesn’t look as distressed and disheveled as people realistically would be after several weeks of going through this type of ordeal.

Aidan and Eva talk about how much food and water they have left. Eva is almost out of water, so Aidan ties a makeshift rope and throws the other end to Eva so she can tie it to her balcony. He then slides some bottled water down the rope to her. This act of kindness begins a friendship and later a courtship between Aidan and Eva, but for most of the movie, it’s too dangerous for them to meet up and be in the same room.

Will Eva and Aidan get together in person? And if so, how will they get to each other when the area is infested with roaming zombies? Those questions are answered in the movie, which includes a fairly brief appearance by Donald Sutherland, who plays another human survivor named Edward.

As the main character Aidan, Posey does his best in conveying all the different emotions that Aidan goes through in this story. The problem is that that’s it not enough when this entire movie lacks character development. Even though Aidan is in every scene of the movie, very little is revealed about him as a person. Viewers never find out what his hopes and dreams were before the zombie apocalypse, or what kind of friend, brother or son Aidan is, other than Aidan showing the expected concerned for his family. Almost nothing is revealed about Eva, except that she likes to draw and she was once engaged to be married.

The zombie chase scenes in the movie are handled in a generic way. “Alone” also has the same cliché as a lot of zombie stories, by having the hero miraculously able to avoid getting a zombie infection, even after being viciously attacked by zombies. The disappointing “Alone” will inevitably be compared to South Korea’s “#Alive,” but it’s a valid comparison because “#Alive” is a much better interpretation of the same story. It’s hard to like a zombie movie that won’t show human survivors as well-rounded people.

Lionsgate released “Alone” on digital and VOD on October 16, 2020. The movie’s release on Blu-ray and DVD is October 20, 2020.