Movie Review - Almost Human

Movie Review - Almost Human

Joe Begos' directorial debut, Almost Human, is a genre-bending, throwback indie-horror masterpiece that falls into the extremely rare 'instant classic' category. Seamlessly weaving together both an alien abduction story and an homage to classic slasher films, this film instantly goes for the jugular and never lets up. The breakneck pace of the film fits the tone of the narrative flawlessly, and makes for a taut action-packed shockfest.  Now available in select theaters and on VOD. 

One night, Seth (Graham Skipper) arrives at his friend Mark's (Josh Ethier) house in a panic. He describes an ordeal in which he encountered a blue light and a piercing noise out in the woods that resulted in a friends disappearance. Mark tries to calm Seth down but suddenly the blue lights and noise surround the house and paralyze the two men and Mark's girlfriend, Jen. Mark runs out of the house and is suddenly enveloped in the light and completely vanishes. Seth watches from the house, unable to move. Two years later, after similar blue lights appear in the woods of a neighboring town, two hunters find Mark lying naked in the woods. But is it really Mark, or something else altogether?

The film is anchored by the performances of the two leading actors, Skipper and Ethier, who dive headfirst into the insanity that is Almost Human. Graham Skipper serves as the ground wire for an electric performance by relative newcomer (to acting) Josh Ethier, and provides to perfect counter-balance to Mark, who brutally hacks and slashes his way through the film without abandon. Ethier is well known for his work as an editor on films like Contracted, but in Almost Human he puts on an acting clinic in 'How to be Insanely Terrifying' that he could easily teach alongside greats like Kane Hodder. I look forward to seeing more of both of these terrific actors in the near future. 

The film was shot on a limited budget, which as I have said before, often yields the most creativity from the film makers, and this is one is clearly no exception. After listening to Joe talk about the film, I get the impression that the use of practical effects (instead of CGI) for the gore was an aesthetic choice and not a budgetary decision, which added to the tonality without ever becoming a distraction. Clearly Joe Begos is a young man who not only loves, but understands the genre, and it shows in his direction. The care and attention he takes with every detail of the film does not go unnoticed. It is the work of a raw and talented young director with an exciting future ahead of him. 

In addition to the daring direction, deft storytelling, and stellar acting, another aspect of the film also stands out: the sound direction and editing. The film is really loud, which works so well in disorienting the senses of the audience members in the same way they affect the characters. There is no score per day, but instead a sort of low and ominous hum that hovers in the background filling in the space with a constant tension, and the blood-curdling screams emitted are piercing and sinister. The sound designer works hand in hand with the editor to define the world of the movie. And the talented individual responsible for the magic on the tech end, is star of the film, Josh Ethier, who apparently does it all. And does it really well. 

Credit also goes to IFC Midnight, who has been making it possible for indie-horror film makers to get their movies seen in theaters and on VOD, and for taking a risk on risk taking films like Contracted, Maniac, Raze, Haunt, The Babadook, and now Almost Human. I personally wish more companies like Magnet and IFC Midnight were willing to take similar risks. They don't always pan out, but when they do, it's a real payoff for the hardcore genre fans. Keep up the good work. Kudos. 

Almost Human is simultaneously brutal, gory, chilling and a ton of fun. Borrowing from a diverse array of films from The Terminator and Friday the 13th to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing, the film combines elements of all of it's influences without ever feeling derivative. If this is Joe Begos' debut, I predict a long and successful career for the director, and I cannot wait to see what he has coming next. I also sincerely hope that we see more of Josh Ethier in the role of the 'bad guy', because he is a natural. In fact I would love to see the three (Skipper, Ethier, and Begos) work on another film together because the chemistry worked wonders.  Although I would recommend seeing this with a crowd, if you don't have the opportunity, than make a point to watch it on VOD. And soon. Otherwise, you're missing out. 

You can see the full trailer here

Grade B+.

- Leo Francis