Taking its cue from films such as Fire in the Sky, The Terminator, Shivers, and even Xtro, Joe Begos’s sci-fi horror Almost Human is obviously a labour of love, which tries hard to succeed on all levels and fortunately manages to do so in most cases.
In Patten, Maine, in 1987, a couple of young men go missing and their friend, Seth, swears blindly that they were sucked into some sort of blinding light that emitted a high-pitched keening noise preventing him from helping them. Not surprisingly no one really believes him, but since there’s no evidence of foul play Seth is allowed to continue his life as a free man, albeit one plagued by frequent nightmares and a sense that all is not well with the universe.
Two years later one of Seth’s missing friends, Mark, is found by two hunters in some woodland; lying on the ground, naked. When they try to help him he kills them, takes their clothes and equipment, and sets off on a violent and bloody road trip back to Patten to find his girlfriend, Jen, who he has unfinished business with. It seems that Mark had been taken prisoner by some sort of alien intelligence, experimented on for a couple of years, and then dumped when they no longer needed him or is he really now a part of some sort of darker, longer-term plan to colonise the Earth? I’ll let you take a stab at that one…
Meanwhile Seth senses something is up and goes to warn Jen, who, somewhat understandably, thinks he’s a fruit cake, short of its fruit. However, it doesn’t take long for the ever increasing number of reports of murders in the area to cause Jen to have a few suspicions of her own, but is it now too late for her to stay safe and avoid her ex’s dark plans for her in a ‘rape by tentacle tube thing’, reproductive sort of way?
Almost Human wears its influences on its sleeve, but in a good way. The way the alien screams at its prey is reminiscent of the 70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the sexual elements reminded me of films such as Inseminoid and Xtro, even Galaxy of Terror, and the whole ‘alien lands naked on Earth thing’ does hark back to the earlier Terminator movies.
The film has a nice retro feel to it, which turns out to be intentional since the filmmakers didn’t want modern technology to impinge too much on the behaviour of their main protagonists. In fact the film’s retro look even extends to a grainy film-stock look, which, again, was apparently intentional, at least for some scenes.
The film’s score is quite creepy and the gore effects are well realised for the most part. The acting is a bit variable, but overall is pretty decent. I wasn’t so sure about the way some scenes were framed; at times it’s a bit too weird for its own good, but overall I liked the whole ‘look’ of the film.
Almost Human isn’t the most original film out there (apart from the weird, icky alien rape scene), but fans of sci-fi horror will lap it up in satisfying and bloody gobbets, and, to be honest, that’s the audience the film is aimed at so… ‘job done’! Oh, and I suggest you fast forward through the very slow credits to get to the final coda at the end… it nicely sets up the possibility of a sequel.
Almost Human has recently been released on DVD (and Blu-Ray), and is being distributed by Metrodome. The sole extra on the DVD is a Frightfest film festival question and answer session (13 minutes), which was filmed at the Glasgow-based event. Event organiser Paul McEnvoy asks a few questions before turning it over to an enthusiastic audience. There’s some interesting stuff that emerges out of this session and would-be filmmakers will find it fascinating. I certainly did. It’s a shame that Metrodome didn’t include the director’s earlier short, Bad Moon Rising as an extra on the disc. A missed opportunity, me thinks. The Q & A also alludes to another project they’re hoping to get off the ground, which sounds very promising. Good luck to them.