Almost Human (2014)

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Almost Human (2014)Starring Graham Skipper, Vanessa Leigh, Josh Ethier

Written and directed by Joe Begos

While writer/director Joe Begos is clearly influenced by old-school horror from the likes of Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce), Stuart Gordon (From Beyond), John Carpenter (The Thing), and even Stephen King (the story’s set in Maine), he still manages to put a new turn on an old saw (and yes, there is a cruel chainsaw death in Almost Human).

The film opens on the sudden and terrifying nighttime abduction of small town guy Mark (Ethier). A hovering alien craft set its sights and lights on Mark. He is taken right in front of his best bud, Seth (Skipper), and his girlfriend, Jen (Leigh), who are powerless to stop their loved one from getting sucked into the sky. He disappears from their sight and seemingly the world… for two years.

Then one wintery day, Mark’s nude, frozen body is discovered in the woods by a pair of hunters. He may be frozen, but Mark is not dead. Pretty soon, however, the hunters are dead. Now we get a good look at Mark and his soulless eyes. Emitting a decibel-defying howl (not unlike the aliens in the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake), it’s clear he isn’t human anymore.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned, Mark’s not even “almost human” – for some inexplicable reason he goes on a mindless murder rampage throughout his home town, brutally offing everyone he sees. I am a little fuzzy as to why he’s doing this and why does not seem to have a clear M.O. (he uses any and all handy weapons) or purpose (later on, the usual goal of implanting alien parasites into hosts is revealed, but it still doesn’t explain the previous hostility and empty corpses left behind).

Not that it much matters “why” – at least in this case. The film is well acted (especially by stage veteran Skipper – I loved him in Re-Animator! The Musical), suspenseful, and yeah… brutal! Mark’s a machine when it comes to killing, and there’s no holding back on the bloodletting.

The film does begin to run out of steam towards the end (though it’s saved by a good “Gotcha!”) and its shaky-cam conceit wears mighty thin (why is the entire room quaking when Seth is just standing there, talking on the phone?), but overall if you’re looking for a vital, uber-violent sci-fi horror movie to settle in with some night, Almost Human is a safe bet.

2 1/2 out of 5

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Staci Layne Wilson