Written and directed by Joe Begos
Distributed by IFC Midnight
Almost Human is an interesting concept for a movie. It’s a mash-up of horror sub-genres – alien abduction and slasher. Sounds like a pretty cool idea. It is a pretty cool idea. However, in moving from concept to execution, the project stumbles a bit.
Almost Human starts out fantastically. We get dropped right in the middle of an alien abduction scene. Our hero, Seth, is running for his life as he’s just seen his buddy, Rob, get sucked into the sky by a mysterious blue light. He pounds on his friend Mark’s door, begging to be let in, and once inside, he begins spouting an unbelievable tale of extra-terrestrial activity.
The pace of this introductory scene is wicked. It’s super-charged and ends with some great imagery. Truly, a wonderfully frantic way to kick off a movie.
And this intro carries the film for a while. After the events of the first few minutes, we pick up Seth again two years later and the story continues from there. Viewers will still be catching their breath from what they’ve just seen. But eventually, when settled in again, you’ll start to notice flaws that didn’t seem to be there at first. You come across one of the supporting characters and notice, wow, this guy is a really stiff actor. Then another stiff actor. Soon you realize most of the cast outside of the three main performers are kinda rough. This isn’t a mortally crushing blow for Almost Human, but it certainly does take away from the authenticity of the movie when the level of the acting of the majority of the supporting cast is coming up short.
With any alien abduction, business really picks up when the person is returned back to Earth, and Almost Human is no different. In fact, Josh Ethier, who plays the abductee, is the best part of the entire movie. His remorseless attacks are the lifeblood of the film and he plays his part well. When director Joe Begos goes for minimal gore during these attacks, things come across quite nicely. Of course we’re not condoning cutaways by any means, but when your budget is limited, sometimes it’s best to show a bit less. There are a few bloody attacks that look very authentic and quite impressive (including one in the final moments of the movie that is an absolute toe-curler!), but the more the practical effects are shown, the more flaws become apparent. And as this film involves alien life forms, some of the F/X involve their otherworldly abilities and appendages. It’s here where things really start to go wrong as they just look pretty cheesy. Up until this point you could deal with mediocre acting and questionable bloody gags, but when things just begin looking ridiculous, it gets tedious.
This is unfortunate because the story of Almost Human is quite good. Nothing really groundbreaking, but it’s a solid tale with a cool ending that works well. Graham Skipper as Seth and, as mentioned previously, Josh Ethier as Mark certainly do a fine job in their roles.
The DVD contains a very thorough ‘Making Of’ segment that contains input from writer/director Begos and all the stars of Almost Human. It’s an informative, humorous and overall entertaining special feature. There are additional features including a ‘Behind the Scenes’ segment and ‘On the Set With Graham Skipper’ but these are basically just shorter versions of the ‘Making Of’ offering, recycling many clips from there. Additionally, there is a decent short film included on the DVD entitled Toxin. It’s written and directed by Begos and stars Ethier in an entertaining point-of-view swapping bloodbath.
Overall, Almost Human starts fast but fades quickly as questionable acting and iffy practical effects wear down the viewer until they take precedent over the interesting story and more capable F/X. Perhaps it was the limited budget that hindered Almost Human. It would be very interesting to see what Begos could do with Skipper, Ethier and more cash on hand. For this one, it’s not a complete loss as there are a couple pretty-impressive blood-letting moments to speak of and the story is good. If you can look past its shortcomings, you might find something you like here, but you’ve got to be able to let a lot slide.
2 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5