Director/writer: Joe Begos.
Cast: Graham Skipper, Josh Ethier, Vanessa Leigh and Susan T. Travers.
Almost Human is the first feature film from the 25-year-old director Joe Begos. A sci-fi thrill ride, Almost Human incorporates a lot of fictional elements from other science fiction films. A partial homage to films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and Terminator (1984), Almost Human crafts a gory tale of alien abduction and murder. Begos’ indie sci-fi horror feature also brings a lot of visual terror to the screen as characters fare poorly in this home entertainment outing. Very enjoyable, film fans will find an excellent and graphic tale of an alien invasion out of control in Almost Human.
The story begins with four friends. One man, Rob, has already disappeared in a flash of blue light. Seth (Graham Skipper) escapes a similar fate, but something or someone is pursuing him. Seth finds a brief refuge at Mark (Josh Ethier) and Jen’s (Vanessa Leigh) home. Yet, a presence has come knocking. Suddenly, another character is taken into the skies above. Seth and Jen escape, but the horror lingers. Two years go by in the story. And now, strange lights are appearing in the sky again. Mark has returned and an alien force is making itself known, in a bloody fashion. A whole community is on the chopping block.
Almost Human is definitely an indie sci-fi horror title. Budget constraints partially hamper the production. The effects onscreen are all developed by a large make-up effects team (25 members); there is no CGI here. These practical effects look mostly. But, some of the effects are over-the-top and involve too much gore. Overall, the blood effects add a grittiness to the action onscreen. As well, the film is limited to a couple of central characters and a few secondary ones. Most of the shots involve two characters, with extras and elaborate choreographed sequences unseen. This focus on a small cast likely kept production costs down. However, more shots with more characters were needed to create for more complex scenes. Still, all of the action onscreen, including the bloodletting, is captured excellently and the reality of the film is not broken by the lack of funds.
This title nods to a few films from the past. This viewer noted the many Terminator references. For instance, the character Mark returns to Earth in his birthday suit and he removes clothes from the first characters he meets. These actions are identical to the 1984 film and this plot device occurs in both films early in the story. Also, Mark goes about his killing spree in a particular robotic fashion, which is also similar to the movements of the T-800, in Terminator. There are also elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in this title. Those who have been infected by an alien tentacle, in Joe Begos’ film, look human, but something lies beneath that cold exterior, something malevolent. Both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Almost Human incorporate similar motivations. The alien force is out to dominate humanity, one body at a time. Begos knows film and he incorporates some of the better sci-fi films into his first outing.
This viewer enjoyed Begos’ shooting style, while the film ends a little too early. Much of the action is captured with a shaky cam. This style of shooting is a little unsettling, much like the action onscreen. Begos tilts the camera to further unsettle the visual plane. Most of the camera work is frenetic, which mimics the chaotic elements in the frame. Begos has done an exceptional job of keeping the directing elements in the film exciting. The film has one detriment, however; the story of Almost Human is over a little too quickly. The story elements build over time and the finale comes and goes with a flourish. But, the conflict and confrontation between the protagonist – Seth – and the central antagonist – Mark – are more like a sprint than a marathon. It would have been interesting to have seen Seth tested with a little more chaotic action and by Mark’s malicious intentions. With that minor criticism aside, Almost Human offers a lot of excitement in its terse run time.
In the end, Almost Human is an entertaining time, spent with a bloodthirsty group of aliens. The blood spray is rampant and several action sequences are very gruesome. And, most indie horror or sci-fi film fans will find something of value in this feature. Begos knows how to create great effects and viewers might even find their own film references in this release. Released on DVD and Blu-ray June 17th, Almost Human deserves your attention.
Overall: 7.5 out of 10.