TIFF 2013: Almost Human
In the spirit of 80’s horror films, writer/director/producer Joe Begos puts a twist of slasher films with this well crafted riotous film. Almost Human tells the story of Seth, who has a horrific encounter with an unknown violent entity, which then abducts his best friend. Two years later, the same ‘lights in the sky’ appear, and a murderous rampage begins.
The sci-fi and horror elements blend surprisingly well, and the indie/arthouse vibe is present throughout. This is the exact kind of film that lends itself to low-budget filmmaking, and the film is enhanced by its roughness. Perhaps I’ve become too accustomed to the current trend of Horror Comedies, but I was honestly expecting more humour. Luckily, the film doesn’t suffer because of the lack of it. The only real downfall is some of the acting, although the two mains, Graham Skipper and Josh Ethier do a bang-up job, Vanessa Leigh lacks something to be desired, and gives a real Charisma Carpenter-esque, circa Buffy, performance in my opinion.
There’s nothing worse than a horror film with a predicable and uninteresting plot, luckily Almost Human does not suffer from this tragedy, while keeping with tradition, it does offer some twists, and most importantly and expected (appropriately gory) ending. As Angelina said to me directly after the film, this is the perfect movie to ‘have on in the background’ during a halloween party, and will probably have anyone saying ‘I think I know this, what is it?’. It’s exactly the type of movie that deserves to be featured at Midnight Madness, and indie genre film, and I hope it gets a wider release.
Almost Human is a simple tale about a simple fear – what if someone you love and trusts disappears. Worse still, what if they come back…and come back wrong. It’s a relatively short feature, but does a great job of pacing out a pretty tight story. Only a few moments are spared to establish character relationships before jumping immediately into the action. Mark disappears, Seth is blamed, the panic dies down and Jen moves on. We are present when Mark disappears so we never doubt that he was abducted, so when Seth experiences premonitions of his return we lean forward in our seats. Mark’s reappearance is sudden, and erupts into immediate violence of increasing intensity. This film has everything – chainsaws, dismemberment, exploding heads, and egg-laying tentacles. I hesitate to say more because it’s a good ride that should not be spoiled.
I love watching horror films that were made by true lovers of the genre and were clearly fun to develop. Filmmakers these days have tried to keep up with changing technology by churning out Haunted Cellphones and Haunted Videos, with increasingly outlandish scenarios to appeal to the 2000s audience. But I think there’s nothing better than an implacable murderer stalking through a house. Director Joe Begos has gone back to our horror roots with Almost Human, even going so far as to shoot it with gritty filters and an amazing throw-back synth score (composed by Ethier). Even the title’s font is perfect for the film era it captures. Asked about setting it in the 80’s, Begos said it’s an easy way to make a film timeless, and if you found a copy of Almost Human in a video store you would easily assume that it was a classic that you had missed. I also found that where they were limited in terms of effects and make-up, it actually enhanced the aesthetic. He said “It’s always better to have crappy practical effects than to have so-so CGI”, a comment which got a round of enthusiastic applause. When asked why he went the Alien Abduction route he pointed out that there are surprisingly few films we can name in that genre so clearly it’s a void that needs to be filled. Almost Human delighted me and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone that appreciates a good splatter-fest.