There have been countless films both good and bad that have taken on the harrowing subject of alien invasions, not to mention notable ones dabbling in alien abductions as well. Mixing the two is a no brainer and as the foundation of the new horror outing "Almost Human" it provides some scary chills and thrills. But in creating a creepy world where abducting and replicating human beings is the special of the day, the film ultimately refuses to embrace its fun B-movie roots and in doing so misses the mark.
One night on his way to his friend’s house, Seth Hampton encounters an unexplained phenomenon that leaves him in a panic. He tries to take refuge in the home of Mark Fisher and his girlfriend Jen Craven, but soon their house becomes surrounded. Tough guy Mark with shotgun in hand is undaunted and becomes determined to protect his home at all costs. But soon a light comes down, paralyzes the mountain man and before Seth’s very eyes his friend disappears into the sky. Cut to many years later and Seth continues to be haunted and tormented by the events of that night. But he feels a strange vibe he hadn’t felt since the abduction and he soon realizes that for good or bad Mark is indeed back.
The up side to the mired in mood "Almost Human" is the obvious homage to the great films that have come before it. Beginning by using the titling font that became a John Carpenter movie staple, then infusing a little "Fire in the Sky" ominous alien experimentation and ending with an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" vibe, "Almost Human" is a film that’s almost perfect. Almost. Shot is a low budget fashion and featuring campy performances and set pieces, the film cries out for a fun factor that never surfaces. The somber tone only goes so far here and what the audience is then left with is a film that feels unfinished. It’s a shame too because the creepy turn by actor Josh Ethier is indeed notably odd and harrowing, but it could have benefited greatly from a little comical camp. (Not to mention Graham Skipper as his neurotic buddy Seth and Vanessa Leigh as his emotional girlfriend Jen too.) Writer/Director Joe Begos certainly has a handle on horror, keeping the eerie moments poignant and palpable, but his rejection of anything amusing ultimately hurts his terror tale. (His creepy worm like mouth method of transferring critters cries out for a witty one-liner!)
I’m all for a horror film that wants to be unflinching, but "Almost Human" seems all but set up as droll B-movie fare. (Even the poster seems to say drive-in movie!) Gore galore and psychotic paranoia are great terror tools for sure, but there’s something to be said for fun in the fright.
"ALMOST HUMAN" OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS AND VOD ON FEB. 21 FROM IFC MIDNIGHT.
Title: "Almost Human"
Stars: 3 1/2
Cast: Graham Skipper, Josh Ethier, Vanessa Leigh
Director: Joe Begos
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Company: IFC Midnight