Almost Human

tn_almosthumanALMOST HUMAN is a very simple low budget movie from first-time-director Joe Begos. (He has since become a second-time-director with THE MIND’S EYE, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to enthusiastic reviews, and recently got picked up for distribution.) The story begins with the protagonist Seth (Graham Skipper, TALES OF HALLOWEEN) running to his friend Mark (Josh Ethier, also the producer and sound designer and an editor on many other movies)’s house in terror from some lights he saw and can’t seem to explain. Against Seth’s pleas, Mark goes outside to investigate, and he disappears.

The majority of the movie takes place 2 years later according to the text on screen, “almost 2 years” later according to Seth. He’s a mess now, his boss at the hardware store thinking he’s on coke, Mark’s girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh, veteran of around 20 obscure indie movies just in the few years before this came out) not wanting to talk to him when he shows up at her work warning that he thinks something is happening again.

Jen has moved on, even has a sort of douchey new fiancee named Clyde (Anthony Amarall III), and although she doesn’t remember or understand what the hell happened to make her boyfriend disappear she does not believe that it was, like, UFOs or something. But Seth had, and is having again, weird nightmares and visions that he believes are supernaturally or science fictionally related to what happened.

And he’s right. He doesn’t know it for a fact, but we know that Mark is indeed back, having shown up naked laying in the woods. Then he got up and he’s walking around the area going on a killing spree with some kind of super strength and lack of emotions. He seems to have memories of his life as Mark (“What are you doing in my house?” he says before killing the guy who now lives in his old house) but he’s not himself. He’s got some kinda body snatcher shit going on.

mp_almosthumanMostly he just walks around like Jason Voorhees without a mask, but sometimes he uses his weird, inhuman scream to incapacitate people, and then he starts having a green tentacle shoot out of his mouth and implant eggs into the people he kills. Mostly through people’s mouths. In one case in a more upsetting place. It’s not an entirely un-fun movie, but it does make sure you know that it’s not fucking around.

Today’s low budget rookie horror pictures are usually not about trying to pull off the most you can with your budget, as in the days of THE EVIL DEAD and HELLRAISER. Now it’s about how little you can get away with. Improvised dialogue, digital video, found footage, implied violence, minimal effects, tape running out right before the shit goes down. I’m happy to report that that’s not what this one is at all. I respect that although ALMOST HUMAN has that home grown feel of a movie a young guy makes with his friends its aspirations are much more cinematic than that. The moment that really won me over was when almost-Mark blows a guy’s head off at the gas station. It’s shot POV with the gun firing into the camera, which works fine but is usually a way of not having to do any effects. To my surprise the next shot shows the body laying there with a nasty caved-in head. Elbow grease has been expended.

And this continues into the climax. Since this is obviously a much lower budget than the low budget classics I mentioned above it feels like a real victory when they bring in some gross alien shit. And you’ll be happy to know they don’t do any of it with the aid of computer technology.

Like many of the up-and-coming horror directors, Begos seems to be infatuated with a certain type of ’80s horror aesthetic. He sets the story in ’87 and ’89, but it’s more timeless than period, with everybody wearing plaid shirts and stuff. They just don’t have cell phones. And the score by Andy Garfield (not the former Spider-man, but a guy who did scores for a bunch of independent movies, including Adam Green’s movies HATCHET, HATCHET II and FROZEN) is definitely influenced by that John Carpenter synth sound we all love. I keep waiting for that fad to get annoying, but I guess I just like that style of music too much. It’s not enough to make a movie good but I like that everybody’s into that sound now. This one also mixes in different styles – screechy violin sounds, deep brass sounds, a nice mix of the best types of horror sounds. Very effective.

ALMOST HUMAN is a small, humble movie. Its appeal is as simple as its plot. But it’s a promising debut, a good version of a “well shit, let’s just call in all the favors we have and make our own movie” type of movie. I enjoyed it.

P.S. I should mention that Begos is currently raising money to pay for cancer treatment for his mother. Go to his GoFundMe if you’re able to help.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 at 11:52 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Almost Human”

  1. This is a movie that I stumbled across many times on several streaming sites and also almost watched more than once, but the poster just turned me off. I looked at it and thought: “Oh god, this is gonna be one of those shitty 80s hommage nerdstalgia movies, isn’t it?” Good to hear that it’s actually kinda good-ish.

  2. Far from perfect, but scrappy and has some cool monsters. I’d recommend this one to anyone looking for good, modern low-budget horror.

  3. Really, its biggest flaw is not being Umberto Lenzi’s ALMOST HUMAN http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071840/

  4. I’m glad Vern still has time for movies like this one. I liked it a bunch.

  5. I’m with Dan. For a minute there I got excited and thought Vern started reviewing Poliziotteschi/Euro-crime flicks!!

  6. Yeah, I kinda dug this film for the most part. Loved the Carpenter vibe, enjoyed the sub-Species fx and ideas towards the end. Some of the more “rape-y” elements were unpleasant, but overall I didn’t hate this movie. It did a better job of what that POD movie tried to do (which I didn’t hate either, though the sister character got real old real quick)

    I’m definitely intrigued to see more of what this director has to offer, though, so hopefully he gets swooped up to do cool stuff soon.

  7. Yeah, that sister performance in POD ruined the movie for me. Fessenden should have blown her head off at the start of the film, not the end. (spoiler)

  8. I don’t recall much about this one, but I remember thinking it had a good vibe. It’s just a “Guy runs around the woods pretending to be a monster” movie but it was put together confidently enough to feel like a real movie.

    Also it shares a title with my favorite Kiss song, so I had that stuck in my head the whole time. There are worse things.

    Kiss almost human

    GENE SIMMONS!! my favorite song off this album

  9. flyingguillotine

    April 21st, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Josh cut a trailer for a film I produced. Super nice guy, and definitely multi-talented.

  10. Hey Vern, along the lines of low budget practical effect driven throwback type horror, have you checked out The Void yet?

    It’s a neat addition to this kind of genre, and it doesn’t at all feel like a flick steeped in nostalgia of this kind of movie. It’s like a strange hybrid of Assault on Precinct 13 and Hellraiser, with a helping heap of Lovecraft and The Thing’s love of practical effects. Watching it a second time now, I think you (and a lot of the folks here) would dig it.

  11. I did not care for it. It had its heart in the right place but I felt its adherence to contemporary horror stylistics (performances of one-note intensity; droning, oppressive sound design; visual atmosphere that obscures rather than enhances; slack pacing) made it a dreary, monotonous experience for me. I was in the mood for a fun foam latex geekshow and it just felt like a morose plod that wasted what looked like some Herculean efforts on the part of the effects team. Everyone else seems to like it though so maybe I’m just an asshole.

  12. If it helps, I think we are all assholes

  13. The Void was disappointing because I was so hyped from the trailer. They had bad ass effects marred by terrible lighting and fast cuts for no reason. Could you imagine how lame The Thing would be if Carpenter decided to use bad lighting and quick cuts?

  14. The editing, framing, and lighting kind of made it feel like all the monster effects took place in the same empty room far from the main action. I’m sure the obfuscating visual style was chosen to keep the audience from spotting the seams in the effects work, but I think this is a wrong-headed approach. The appeal of practical effects is in their tangibility. Any visible flaws just enhance that. I’d rather get a good look at all the work that went into an effect, even if that means it looks less than 100% realistic, than a fleeting glimpse that preserves the reality but doesn’t let you see how awesome it is.

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