For their first feature, Almost Human (review), director Joe Begos and actor/editor Josh Ethier have put together an ambitious, effects-heavy alien abduction story that’s as unrelenting as it is exuberant.
An intense ride that shows the love for the Eighties era, Almost Human is a standout first entry for Joe and his crew. Now, through IFC Midnight, the film is enjoying a limited theatrical run and is also available on VOD.
DC: I know House of the Devil, the Ti West film, did a limited VHS run, but there are very few films that get a chance to do it and where it actually makes sense to put it out. Is the VHS of Almost Human just going to be a limited run, or will any copies be for sale? Or are you just handing them out at screenings?
JB: I actually made a hundred of them and I know that they’re giving out about half of them, and then some of them will be with press stuff. So I think they’re going to slowly trickle their way out there. It’s definitely a giveaway and publicity thing only. So they’ll be hard to track down since they’re not for sale. which I think is kind of cool, ya know?
DC: How much credit does Stephen King deserve for getting you guys into horror, and when did you make your first short?
JB: For me, the thing with Stephen King is, with his books and his movies, when I would watch them as a younger kid, I could identify with them because they felt so much like home. It felt like the town that I lived in. Those movies were much more scary because I felt like they could happen at any time. Silver Bullet felt like it was shot in my town, and Pet Sematary seemed like it could’ve taken place ten minutes up the road. I just had a much bigger connection to those movies because of that.
And our first short… I started making stuff when I was around twelve or thirteen and I probably met Josh a year or so later and he joined in pretty quick on that front.
DC: Yeah, I’ve seen Bad Moon Rising; was that the first thing that you guys worked on together?
JB: Yeah, that was only made for a few hundred bucks in our living room. We shot the whole thing in our apartment. We always wanted to be shooting and making something, and I would get so bored with the locations that I had. So I try to make the coolest thing that I can. It’s like, all right, I’ve got a few hundred bucks and an apartment, how could I make a werewolf movie? A couple friends of ours saw it and tried to get it in the hands of some festival directors. Then FEARnet asked us if they could license it. It was something that we didn’t think any more than a dozen people were going to see it. We just wanted to try out some new techniques and some new equipment that we had, and then, all of a sudden, it’s playing in different countries and different festivals. It was pretty bizarre.
DC: So you definitely would say that Bad Moon Rising helped get Almost Human made? Did you start with shorts because it made more sense to do something smaller to hone your skills, or do you have a passion for short film? I’ve always thought to make a feature if you can because it has more of a chance of getting out there and having success.
JB: We started when we were thirteen or fourteen so shorts just seemed like the most obvious thing, just to kind of cut our teeth on it. We always wanted to make a feature, it was just figuring out when the time was right. With Bad Moon Rising, the way that it helped make the feature is when we went to these festivals, people had features that cost a couple hundred grand that were on the same technical level as our short. And these people were profiting on these movies so that’s when we thought, “We gotta make a movie.” People always say they got money and then it’s just a waiting game so we just looked at how much we had in our credit line and how much we had in the bank and decided to go and start this. We pretty much self-financed it until it was in the can, and then we started cutting it and using the pieces we weren’t cutting to raise additional money to take us to post. We literally had twenty dollars in the movie account when we wrapped shooting. Because we had made so many shorts, it helped us overcome a lot of the problems in making such a do-it-yourself movie like this.
DC: Yeah, I think you guys only shot for about three weeks so obviously you needed that experience to get all the work done. Is there something you weren’t able to do on set that you didn’t have time for? You’ve spoken of a sequel, but is it more likely you’d move on to something else?
JB: I do definitely want to do a sequel at some point, but I don’t want it to be my next movie. I had just written in so much action and set pieces and effects that by the time we were actually shooting, there was a lot of it that I literally didn’t have time to pull off. Every time there’s a neck snap in the movie, there was supposed to be a much more complicated kill there, but we just didn’t have time so we just went with the neck snap and hurried up and moved on. It was mostly stuff like that, but as a whole the movie is pretty much there.
DC: Josh, so you were pretty much the one breaking necks the entire time. Was acting something you kind of fell into through editing, and was it difficult to edit yourself and all those neck breaks and be objective about your performance?
JE: Well, when we started making films in high school, I was the only person that was as one hundred percent available as Joe. So I would naturally end up in front of the camera and then behind the computer when we were editing. I got really used to Joe telling me, “Okay, fall down really hard” or “Throw that over here.” When we went to go make the movie, we weren’t going to be able to get the kind of cast that we’d normally love to work with. So he wrote it based on the idea that I could just be an incredibly large, physical presence in the movie. Then, on set, that actually felt like home standing with an axe or a knife and walking towards the camera and walking through the woods at night. We’ve been doing this stuff since we were kids. In editing we actually toned down a lot of my performance because we realized that just silence was absolutely better. Most of the film is just looks and glares and feral action. It wasn’t hard to objectively edit myself just because Joe’s constantly in the room. Of all the directors I’ve worked with, Joe is the most present in the editing room just because that’s how we’ve always worked together.
Almost Human is now available on Video On Demand and is also playing at IFC in New York City.
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