I enjoy horror films and sci-fi occasionally, but they’re not really my forte. In that realm, I’m more of a psychological thriller/suspense/action girl. Regardless of genre, if there’s a compelling story that holds my attention and characters that I care about, I’m willing to join the ride.
This past weekend, I saw “The Human Race” during its run in Los Angeles. Described as a sci-fi/horror film, “The Human Race” transports us, along with 80 strangers, into a deadly game of life-and-death. There’s no talk of where we are, how we got there, or why. There’s no time for that. Humans are thrust into a marathon race to the death with no further instructions beyond these rules:
“The school, the house, and the prison are safe. Follow the arrows, or you will die. Stay on the path, or you will die. If you are lapped twice, you will die. Do not touch the grass, or you will die. Race… or die.”
In other words, there’s a 99% chance that you will die. There isn’t much time to delve into who any of these characters are or what they may find at the end of the path, but this isn’t that type of film. Writer-Director Paul Hough wisely concentrates on a handful of individuals to distinguish them from the masses. It’s a necessary choice to give the audience more than a mere sketch of some of these people plucked from obscurity. Equally as important as the narrative progresses, Hough displays a countdown as unseen victims lose their lives.
“The Human Race” is far from a perfect film. We’re asked to suspend our disbelief in a number of ways that are difficult to swallow. It’s a blood bath of unbelievable proportions, but the film also has a certain air of campiness and dark humor which is necessary, considering its unfathomable ridiculousness. Why is everyone there apparently plucked from the same city block? And why do the rules sound like something some demented kid would make up? Like “The Hunger Games” and “The Most Dangerous Game”, a short story by Richard Connell, we just go with it.
This said, the film is not nearly as bad as general reviews of it would have you believe. It’s not without redeeming qualities. In fact, it’s unique in many ways. For one, major characters who lead the race are not whom you might expect. For example: a one-legged man and two other individuals who are deaf. Hough as the writing god of this world also keeps it as a level playing field: Death doesn’t discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time. And will strike everyone eventually. That means that the pregnant woman, the elderly man, children, religious men– none are spared from this ultimate test at the mercy of some unseen torturer. The film has no fear of being offensive, that’s for sure. But this torturer also believes in justice so those who try to manipulate the system will also be annihilated.
In his directing, Paul Hough gets good performances from his lead, Eddie McGee as well as a handful of others who have especially memorable turns in the film especially Trista Robinson, T. Arthur Cottam and Richard Gale. For a low-budget film of such ambition, Hough also mixes it up visually, using interesting camera movements and shots that many big-budget directors wouldn’t think to try. And the two deaf actors? Turns out, they aren’t deaf at all.
Additionally, as I came to find out, Hough threw in a couple of deaf characters purely for utilitarian purposes: They didn’t have the money to pay a sound guy for those days:
Deaf characters = No spoken dialogue = Budget Saver
“The Human Race” is not meant to be perfect. It’s not meant to make sense completely. It’s important to remember that the film is made by (and for) horror fans. See this movie review by one horror film site. Essentially, it’s a niche film. This is an important distinction because it shouldn’t be compared with big-budget films made for mainstream audiences. It’s neither of those things… and was never meant to be.
The Human Race Film Trailer