Saturday, March 08, 2014

Almost Human

I suppose I should have suspected the Almost Human filmmakers were local when I saw that they'd be at the Coolidge in person, but the film being another "folks from Rhode Island" special after last week took me a bit by surprise. Many, many people who were involved with the production or knew the cast & crew showed up.

Cast & crew of ALMOST HUMAN

See? (Left to right: Someone whose name I didn't catch, co-star Vanessa Leigh, someone else I don't know, co-star/editor Josh Ethier, co-star Anthony Amaral III, writer/director Joe Begos. Cut me some slack on not knowing people, it was 2am!)

I must admit, though, that as writer/director Joe Begos and co-star/editor Josh Ethier exhorted folks to scream for the kills and everything else, and then answered questions afterward, I recognized that we have strong philosophical differences on the subject of horror movies. The biggest was when he was talking about how technology ruined horror, and I kind of wanted to call him out on that. Oh, no, the fact that characters have mobile phones and the internet makes it harder to keep characters isolated and ignorant? Good! Use that. Write something aout how the demonic descendants of the ancient evils can haunt and curse and borrow from other mythologies like their progenitors never could but don't really feel passionate about it. Play with how instant portable communication creates the weird dichotomy of being there and not there at the same time, and use it to make people feel more helpless. Collaborate with people around the world to give your basic body-snatcher or zombie story the scale that's always been implied. Make something that speaks to your audience's fears rather than just repeats the things that made their parents jump.

Then again, given how much Joe enjoyed that IFC Midnight made them 100 VHS tapes to keep, give away in contests, etc., it's hard to argue that they're enjoying horror the wrong way. This is, after all, entertainment and having fun should be part of the plan.

ALMOST HUMAN folks with their limited edition VHS!

You know, I think that awful picture works here. But here's a better one:

Cast & crew of ALMOST HUMAN

Anyway, everybody will be at the Coolidge again at midnight tonight (four hours from now, so, no, I didn't get this written/posted with great speed). It's a fun time, and you can't deny their enthusiasm.

Almost Human

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 March 2014 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (@fter Midnite Fresh Blood, digital)

Almost Human is a splatter movie aimed squarely at the sharp objects and shotguns crowd, and if you're in the mood for that sort of thing, it delivers without a whole lot of other distractions. It's not really scary, but it moves quickly and has a couple of better-than-average moments, which is something that not every movie of its type can say.

Two years ago, in 1987, Seth Hampton (Graham Skipper) burst into his friend Mark Fisher's house, raving to Mark (Josh Ethier) that their friend had disappeared in a flash of blue light, and while neither Mark nor his girlfriend Jen Craven (Vanessa Leigh) gave that tale much credence, an ear-piercing whine incapacitates Seth and Jen but leads Mark to leave the house, never to be seen again. Well, at least not for another two years, when Jen has moved on better than Seth - she's engaged to well-off Clyde Dutton (Anthony Amaral III) - and a couple of hunters a hundred miles away find a naked man in the woods.

They're quickly dispatched and the returned Mark starts heading back to Patten (a small town in southern Maine where the cars all have Rhode Island plates), leaving a few more bodies in his wake. It would, perhaps, be nice if what was going on in Mark's head was a little more fleshed out; he's off-handedly murdering people and doing weird things with the bodies, but in demeanor and physicality he often seems to be the guy from the opening minutes. If writer/director Joe Begos were more interested in the whys and hows of this story, there would be some interesting material there - it's not often that aliens return an abductee (or a duplicate) to where they were taken and have the desire to execute some creepy master plan exist alongside his old self rather than displacing them, and that might have been a neat take. That's shoved off to the side, along with Jen's unexplained uneasy feeling and Seth's nosebleeds and bad dreams, so that he can get to the gore.

Full review at EFC

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