(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Two years ago, Mark Fisher disappeared from his home in rural Maine in a brilliant flash of otherworldly blue light. His friend Seth Hampton was the last to see him alive. Now, Seth is having disturbing premonitions that Mark has returned as something other than human …”
That’s really all you need to know about whether or not ALMOST HUMAN falls within your sphere of influence. Now – if it does – then you’re likely to find something worthwhile in all of its low budget schlock. Will it change how you look at movies? Probably not. Will it force you to reexamine your life? It definitely shouldn’t. Will it earn a place alongside, say, CITIZEN KANE as rivaling the best movie ever made? If you need to ask, then you’re too far gone for me to help!
ALMOST HUMAN is an old-school-style thriller, which essentially means it was shot on-a-budget and won’t have any of the niceties of contemporary motion pictures more likely known to the masses at large. The story revolves around the idea of alien abduction – there are plenty of flashbacks to support that something is definitely ‘out there’ – but, before it’s all over, it’ll end up raising more questions than it ever could answer on such a paltry sum.
That doesn’t mean that it’s poor filmmaking, folks. What it does mean is that it’s probably made by folks who have an unflinching fascination with indie thrills, and they wanted to get together for the sole purpose of producing something they believed could stand cheek-to-cheek with the slasher stuff of old. It does work effectively on that level, but – as is so often the case these days when young auteurs sit in the catbird seat – writer/director/producer/cameraman Joe Begos was probably stretched so thin that he’d never uncover the narrative weaknesses of what he created, much less cared to go out and look for them.
For example, he’s overly concerned with throwing stuff at the wall (not only blood) as one character after another really show up and audiences are expected to care about them. There are hints provided to the established relationships, but the niceties of developing relationships or establishing ‘beats’ are little more than condiments barely covering the meat … meat that’ll be sliced, hacked, chainsawed, or space-raped (seriously, it happens!) before the lights come up and the credits roll.
What ended up happening for me is that I was constantly reminded of other pictures that had already explored these ideas – abduction, consciousness-swapping, body snatching, etc. – to far greater effect in the past; this has the unfortunate effect of pulling me out of HUMAN and putting me back in, say, THE HIDDEN. I don’t imagine this is what Begos desired; why would he make his own feature, after all, if all he wanted to do was remind me of other films? Because so much of what’s here ends up feeling like it was culled from elsewhere, HUMAN lacks any real conviction to the story it tries to tell independent of those influences. It reminds me that what looks great isn’t necessarily filling; rather, it just looks good when all is said and done.
Lastly, it’s never a good thing when a motion picture fades to black and produces a laughable ‘that’s it’ moment. True – for those who were watching closely – there is one of those handy post-credits sequences that adds a bit more to the story; but it doesn’t add to or reshape the narrative in any meaningful capacity, ultimately being an extraneous moment promising ‘more to come.’
I’ll probably ignore the sequel if it happens.
ALMOST HUMAN (2013) is produced by Channel 83 Films and Ambrosino / Delmenico. DVD distribution is being handled by MPI Media Group under the IFC Midnight label. As for the technical specifications, there’s an awful lot of surprising grain in this indie chiller, but the sights and sounds work pretty well for the creative intent. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then you’re about to be thrilled by two audio commentaries, a too-expansive making-off documentary, other behind-the-scenes shorts, a short film, and more. It’s a great assortment for those who might be interested in trying this at home.
RECOMMENDED. Depending upon how closely you’re watching, you’re liable to find problems aplenty with ALMOST HUMAN; but the truth is I suspect that the makers only intended you to have fun with such a visceral throwback to times when horror didn’t have to make an awful lot of narrative sense. No, you won’t know where the aliens came from or what their purpose was. No, you won’t really have all of the answers you want to who these characters are, why they were targeted, or what it all means. But the schlock – glorious schlock! – is lean and mean enough to satisfy horror fans for the bulk of its 80 minutes.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group and IFC Midnight provided me a DVD copy of ALMOST HUMAN by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.