I love monster movies. Always have. I probably always will. As a critic, I tend to give them a bit of a pass when it comes to being hard on them, and that’s because I have such a soft spot for them in my heart and mind. There’s something noble about exploring the highs and lows of ‘the creature’; usually, it’s ‘a creature’ not of its own creation, and that almost always implies that the audience is going to go soft on the character. Plus – by its very nature – ‘the creature’ is almost always the underdog in the stories where it appears because there’s always the menace known as ‘mankind’ seeking to wipe it from the face of the Earth. Such is life.
But, for whatever reason, BEING HUMAN just never struck a chord with me. I couldn’t say why specifically, but I’ll try to highlight why I think it failed to light my fire if you’re interested.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the production materials: “Leading everyday lives is harder than it looks for three twenty-something supernatural roommates – vampire Aidan (Sam Witmer), ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath) and werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington). Together, they share the creature comforts of a Boston brownstone while struggling to resist the temptations of their true natures and keep their secrets hidden from the outside world.”
As I said, monsters are a rare breed. Even rarer are monsters that you want to get to know personally – i.e. how they live, who they share apartments with, what their day-to-day life looks like. What’s compelling about the standard monster story is that it’s just trying to be what it is, whether that means feeding on human flesh or terrorizing a small town once every full moon. We don’t all that much care how a monster ‘goes to work’ as its alter-ego. We aren’t all that much interested in how a monster balances daycare and shopping and Twitter. When the monster becomes too human – such as is the case in a program titled BEING HUMAN – the element of being truly scared of what it is gets largely marginalized in favor of some crafty storytelling that kinda/sorta reduces the monster to gimmickry (that’s my two cents, and I’m standing by it).
Now, this isn’t to say that BEING HUMAN isn’t smartly written or even relevant for its times. Rather, I’d argue on its behalf that its principle players – Witmer, Rath, and Huntington – are probably the greatest source of the program’s appeal. They’re all likeable. They certainly flesh out their respective ‘creatures’ as best as the writing allows. What they’re given to explore – humanity versus their decided inhumanity; obedience to a greater code of conduct pertaining to their possible ‘clans’; relationships with significant others – has, however, been explored often enough (quite probably, there’s some facet of it in every legitimate monster movie), so I’m not sure how impactful the program can be in the long run.
Perhaps this is because, as a person, I’m largely a bit more cynical than most. I tend to think that the monster inevitably wins out (and not the man) in memorable monster movies, and that ultimately leads to the monster’s destruction. Could it be that putting a human face on the monster just isn’t for my tastes? It’s possible, though I think that, of the three regulars, Witmer is given the best meat to chew on here (maybe that’s limited to just Season 2, for all I know). All-in-all, BEING HUMAN still succeeds in delivering the program its intended to be; maybe I was just hoping for something a bit more … dark?
BEING HUMAN: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON is produced by Muse Entertainment Enterprises (as Muse Entertainment), Zodiak USA, Quebec Film and Television Tax Credit, and Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. DVD distribution is being handled by Entertainment One (E One). The program airs in the U.S. on Syfy. As for the technical specifications, it looks and sounds very solid; the cinematography is a bit predictable, but there are some nice touches with flashbacks that explore the background of several of these characters. The special features are surprisingly slim for a program still in production, and the set only boasts a Season 2 making of featurette, a few behind-the-scenes interviews, and the cast’s appearance at San Diego Comic-Con 2012; not bad, just – like I said – a bit thin.
RECOMMENDED. While I have absolutely no reservation pointing out that BEING HUMAN just wasn’t for me, I’ve also absolutely no problems giving it a ‘thumbs up’ for a general audience. It has admirable production qualities, a fairly winning cast, and a reasonable investment in story and characters. I tend to prefer my monster stories with more ‘monster,’ though, not a group of twentysomethings struggling to fit in. Still, it’s a novel concept, and I’ve no doubt there are people who love its bark and its bite just fine.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One (E One) provided me with a DVD copy of BEING HUMAN: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON for the expressed purposes of completing this review.