Blu-ray Review: 'Almost Human'

By: Heather Seebach

I first got wind of Almost Human when it appeared on the line-up at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Unfortunately, I could not attend but I compiled a list of must-see TIFF flicks and this one jumped into the top 3 immediately after I watched the trailer. It looked like an alien abduction thriller by way of slasher film through the eyes of John Carpenter. Sure enough, having seen the film now, I can confirm it delivers on exactly that! Joe Begos' feature debut is a horror love letter and a much-needed injection of extraterrestrial terror into the genre.

 In October 1987, two Maine men experienced a brilliant flash of blue light and ear-piercing noises with inexplicable power outages. While investigating, Mark (Josh Ethier) was taken into the sky right in front of Seth (Graham Skipper). After two years of trying to convince everyone he is neither crazy nor a murderer, Seth is still plagued daily by nightmares and nosebleeds. Suddenly, amidst a series of gruesome murders, Mark returns but he is not the man he once was. With the help of Mark's former girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh), Seth seeks the truth about what happened to Mark that fateful night.

The first thing horror enthusiasts will notice and appreciate about Almost Human is The Thing fan-service. From the synth score to the title font (which is perfect), this film kneels at the altar of Carpenter. Astute genre fans may also recognize nods to The Terminator, Fire in the Sky, and even Re-Animator (which is likely no coincidence given Begos and Skipper's background working on Re-Animator the Musical). It is obvious that the filmmakers have a lot of love for horror which translates well to viewers who share that passion.

This is a low-budget independent film and it shows, which is both good and bad. Some of the actors (many of whom were amateurs cast locally in New England) are weak to the point of distraction though Ethier and Skipper do well in the lead roles. Some of the dialogue is a bit wooden and the film is not without its share of genre cliches. On the positive side, the low-budget nature of the film is responsible for its lovely location (in Begos' Rhode Island hometown), the handheld camerawork, and the all-practical gore FX. With those latter elements, it's hard to complain!

Almost Human leaps right into the good stuff and it's a tight 80 minutes. The third act is especially strong - this is where the bonkers kicks in so stick around. Alien-abduction horror has been lacking since the 80s (the best recent example I can think of is Jake West's wonderfully insane Evil Aliens) but this one is a rare and inventive slasher/alien combo! It is not without a few first-timer hiccups but it is sure to please most old-school horror and 80s sci-fi fans.

Almost Human is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films. The Blu-ray edition includes the following bonus features:

- A 45-minute making-of featurette all about the production, from the cast and crew to FX and more. It is full of on-set footage and a good watch if you enjoyed the film.

- A slimmer behind-the-scenes featurette which uses the same footage from the longer featurette above, only it's condensed down to 5 minutes (in case you're in a hurry/less interested).

- On Set with Graham Skipper: footage specifically of star Graham Skipper goofing off.

- Toxin: This is a short film by Joe Begos. Clocking in at 4 minutes, this cool little short was actually in the original ABCs of Death 26th director competition. I remember that because it was among my favorites!

- Theatrical Trailer; Alternate Trailer; IFC Trailer: Self-explanatory, yes?

- Vintage TV spot: This is basically the film's trailer with a touch of grindhouse cheese thanks to a voice-over. It is a cute idea but it would have been better with some visual graininess or tracking lines.

- Photo Gallery: Lots of photos from the set.

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