Dir: John Begos
Starring: Graham Skipper, Josh Ethier and Vanessa Leigh
The Film: On October 13, 1987 in the town of Patten, Maine, a shaken Seth Hampton (Skipper) tries to warn his best friend Mark Fisher (Ethier) of an eerie blue light that sucked their friend Rob into the sky as a piercing screech rendered him helpless. Mark ignores Seth’s warning and is sucked into the blue light without a trace. Two years amble by and Seth is struck by constant insomnia. He suffers hallucinations of Mark returning to Patten and is afflicted with chronic and mysterious nosebleeds. Meanwhile Mark’s wife Jenny (Leigh) is engaged to a new man and has moved on with her life. But the lights begin to flicker and go out just like when Mark disappeared and a rash of gruesome homicides leave a trail leading straight to Patten. Is Seth imagining it, or has Mark been resurrected? What the heck has happened over the past two years?
“Almost Human” almost worked. It has a strong affinity for all of the classic western cult horror and science fiction films enclosed tenderly to it’s breast but it does not achieve an identity of it’s own. John Begos’s freshman feature has his heart in the right place by making loving references to greats such as “Friday the 13”, “Halloween”, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Thing” with a dose of old school Stephen King but to name a few. There is admirable intention behind his motives by delivering a heady dosage of bloodshed, gore and B-movie schlock but he neglected to impose his own film with it’s own face and that to me is the mark against any film. It’ s all well and good to homage, but you must, must impart your own personal stamp of creativity on the product in order to make it work.
Those criticisms being said,I for one enjoyed “Almost Human”. For all intents and purposes a period film (the 1980’s isn’t too far away granted, but my memories of 1987 are blurred so my point is blameless :P) it harbors a very appropriate look. The visual effects in “Almost Human” possess a generous grind house aesthetic which just HAPPENS to be practical and although it is not as extreme as I originally anticipated it is still solid and squishy. Graham Skipper is by far the best actor here because although his character is constantly twitchy and erratic it is justified. Seth is a man who has witnessed two of his friends being forcibly abducted taken by a hostile alien presence.
A man who was later blamed for what happened and who the town is still wary about. Whispers are exchanged behind his back, furtive glances are tossed his way whenever he makes an appearance in public if only to buy some bread and milk. He is a man who suffers horrible nightmares and is alienated by all he meets- he is not a hero, he’s just a regular man who has been deeply traumatised by something he was never prepared for. Skipper respectably captures this affliction and stigma with his fidgety, paranoid personality and he comes off like a champion. I don’t watch such fare expecting award-garnering performances but on the whole, the rest of the cast did a good job even though the material ultimately is predictable. Hey- predictable doesn’t necessarily mean bad just like ‘generic’ doesn’t always equal doom for a movie. The overall tone of “Almost Human” is incredibly straight forward and direct in it’s mission to thrill, delight and make horror lovers out there holler with joy at it’s throwback approach to a genre that surpasses time itself. Will it be memorable? Probably not, but I’m no clarivoyant and this film does not make any pretension about its’ aspirations otherwise so why should I?
This film is not going to be the cult classic like the many it modeled itself after, but it’s intentions are heart-warming and it operates on a pleasantly entertaining level. If anybody watches “Almost Human” expecting high art they will automatically be at fault because if the cover art wasn’t evidence enough, this is NOT that type of film. But if you want to have a jolly dash of fiendish and rampaging fun, I say give it a look and judge for yourself. You could do a lot worse.
The Australian DVD
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill care of Accent Film Entertainment for the copy.
Review written by Bea Harper