You know who’s awesome? John Carpenter. You know what’s awesome? Aliens. You know where’s awesome? New England. You know who knows all of these things? Writer/director Joe Begos and producer/actor/sound designer Josh Ethier. Well, obviously other people know how awesome all of those things are and knew how much a combination of all of these things would appeal to genre fans. It might be the Massachusetts in me, but seeing a big bearded guy roam around the woods and murdering people really made me feel homesick.
Seth (Graham Skipper) rushes over to his friend Mark’s (Ethier) house to tell him about seeing a friend of theirs vanish in front of him, only to have Mark disappear in a giant blue light as well. Two years later, Seth and Mark’s girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh) are trying to move on with their lives with varying success. Jen has gotten engaged, but Seth still has nightmares and unexplainable nosebleeds. A group of hunters stumble across Mark’s body in the woods, naked, and full of life. Well, full of life might be an overstatement, but he’s not dead. When he comes to, he’s super pissed and starts blazing a trail of murder and bearded fury on his way back home. It’s unclear exactly what’s happened to Mark and where he’s been, other than aliens of course, but even the people closest to him are at risk. There’s blood, screams, aliens, parasitic incubations, and some hot alien tongue to bathing suit area action in this sci-fi/slasher mash up.
Almost Human combines a lot of really fun stuff and brings in things that we’ve seen before in low budget horror films and really pulls it off well. A lot of low budget films resort on slashers because as long as you come up with a few cool effects, it doesn’t really matter why or how these events take place because story and dialogue doesn’t cost any money. All of the kills in the film (which use basically every object you could think of being available in Maine in 1987) are really fun and done really well, so I could easily see Almost Human having been another average slasher. Instead, it was really refreshing to see the filmmakers take sci-fi elements, which generally don’t do well in a low budget setting, and really changes the tone of the whole thing.
Casting is another challenge that low budget films face, but the whole cast is really played to their strengths. Skipper’s presence as a paranoia-filled eccentric should come as no surprise, given his theatrical representation of Re-Animator’s Herbert West. Different from a lot of similar films, it was interesting to see that it wasn’t the female love interest grasping to the memory of Mark, but rather the best friend. And when you need a bearded giant tearing ass through the woods with an axe, it’s pretty convenient that a film’s producer quite naturally takes to being a bearded giant tearing ass through the woods. Almost Human isn’t something we’ve never seen before, but it took a lot of elements familiar to genre fans and brought them together in a deliberate way. Just barely hitting the 80 minute mark, with credits, Almost Human is a gory throwback that really hits its marks and makes you want to follow it with a John Carpenter marathon.
You can also read Mike Pereira’s review out of TIFF here.
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