Found footage has lately become the bread and butter of the horror genre, so director Robert Palmer’s I Am Alone is not that different on paper. A zombie outbreak occurs in a small town and government agents review footage from survivors in order to paint a clear picture of what actually happened. Where the film differs however, is the way in which they utilize the found footage and why it exists in the first place.
I Am Alone stars Gareth David-Lloyd (Torchwood, Dr. Who) as television survivalist Jacob. Jacob, along with his director Adam (Rory Zacher) and producer Mason (Gunner Wright), are in the Colorado Rockies to film another episode of their titular adventure show. The trio separate, with Jacob on his own in the wilderness for seven days until he reaches the rendezvous point, while Adam and Mason shoot B-roll in a nearby town before realizing something is slowly but surely going wrong with everyone.
The “found” footage is comprised of shots from Jacob’s solo exploration, Mason’s accompanying videos, and various surveillance cameras. I Am Alone is interesting in that all of the video found by the government is explained as part of a show filming gone terrible wrong, instead of just a group of people with a really good cell phone battery. Many of the shots are filmed with selfie sticks and GoPros, making for both a somewhat immersive storytelling experience and a clever justification for the lower budget shooting style.
Indeed much of I Am Alone feels reminiscent of video games like Dying Light, as it is often shown in a first person perspective. Jacob traversing the wilderness while completely unaware of the new, undead dangers that fill the forest around him is equal parts thrilling and disorienting. It’s juxtaposed nicely with Mason’s perspective views in the thick of the zombie outbreak happening in the town. When the film takes a break from the selfie sticks and reeling GoPro angles to settle on a few steady camera shots of Jacob or Mason delivering exposition, they are a welcome break for viewers.
Unfortunately that’s really where I Am Alone stops being different from the rest. Despite its interesting style, it doesn’t stray much from a typical zombie film. Outbreaks occur, things begin to unravel, characters fight to survive the undead hoards and a select few are working on a cure to the deadly zombie virus. It’s a lot to jam into an hour-and-a-half feature, and the film still stumbles a few times with minor side plots. Gareth David-Lloyd’s performance as Jacob is a plus though, as it is full of appropriate amounts of desperation and a slow build of terror.
Even with its decent pace, the film keeps wrangling viewers back to the overarching plot of Mason being interviewed by a presumed CDC doctor named Marlow. Marlow is attempting to extract information from the footage in order to concoct a potential vaccine against the ever encroaching zombie infestation. Instead of pushing the narrative forward, this ends up dragging the story down at various points in the movie and ultimately leads to a lackluster resolution. Indeed, it feels that if the interactions between Mason and Marlow were cut entirely, the film would have flowed much better.
While I Am Alone boasts an interesting style, it ultimately doesn’t stray too far from the path. There are certainly a few moments of poignant terror and even heartbreak in the movie, but nothing that truly sets it apart from the rest. For some solid performances, simple story, and different style, I Am Alone makes for a decent independent zombie outing.
I Am Alone will be screened this Friday at the Phoenix Comicon Fanfest at the University of Phoenix Convention Center in Glendale.