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'Almost Human' review: Screech and suck to superiority

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Almost Human


"Almost Human" begins playing in Houston at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park location starting on Friday, February 28.

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Written, produced, and directed by first time director Joe Begos, "Almost Human" has an extremely short 76 minute duration so it wastes little time jumping right into the midst of something otherworldly. On October 13, 1987 in the town of Patten, Maine, a shaken Seth Hampton (Graham Skipper) tries to warn his best friend Mark Fisher (Josh Ethier) of a blue light that sucked their friend Rob into the sky as a piercing screech left him helpless. But Mark ignores Seth's warning and is sucked into the very same blue light. Two years pass and Seth isn't sleeping. He has visions of Mark returning to Patten and is plagued with nosebleeds. Meanwhile Mark's wife Jen (Vanessa Leigh) is engaged to a new man and has moved on. But the lights begin to flicker and go out just like when Mark disappeared and a series of gruesome murders leave a trail leading straight to Patten. Has Mark returned from supposed death and if so where has he been the past two years?

"Almost Human" is shorter than "Cloverfield" and has around an 8-minute end credit sequence solely to be long enough to be entered into the festival circuit. This may make it seem like the sci-fi horror film is rushed along, but its fast pace is actually fairly comfortable and it fits the film very well. The film draws influences from some of the most respectable cult classics. The opening credits and the film mostly taking place in the middle of the woods gives it a "Friday the 13th" atmosphere while the music seems like the forgotten score John Carpenter never released. As the film progresses, you're immediately reminded of "The Thing" and "Halloween" during the final act. The violent, murderous rampage also has some better than decent yet not quite great gore thanks to its practical makeup effects.

It's difficult to root for Seth though because he's so twitchy. While Jen seems to have forgotten everything that happened the night Mark disappeared, Seth just wants to wake her up to the nightmarish sights and sounds he does remember. He isn't heroic and he doesn't want to save anyone. He just wants his life to go back to normal after Jen told the media that he was behind everything and it ruined his life. In other words, Seth only cares about himself.

There's this entire sequence where Seth doesn't seem to understand anything anyone is telling him. He mutters the phrase, "What's that supposed to mean," several times in less than five minutes. Mark always seems to ask questions without giving anyone a chance to actually answer. He asks a man cutting firewood why he's living in his house before blasting him with a shotgun and thrusting a hatchet into the back of his skull before the poor guy can give an actual answer. Seth is trying to load a rifle while Jen is in trouble. He’s rushed and in a panic, but can’t seem to get any of the shells into the actual gun. So he just throws the entire supply on the floor. While the film has several positive influences, the other influences aren't so great. "Jason Goes to Hell" is passable since the acting in that sequel is some of the best in the "Friday the 13th" series, but "Almost Human" is a lot like "Dreamcatcher" at the end of the day and that's something no film should try to ride the coattails of.

"Almost Human" would be a decent first film for anyone, but its abrupt ending and familiarities hurt it more than anything else. Nothing is really explained by the end of the film and you're left wondering why aliens have a thing about turning our televisions on, making prank calls, turning the lights on and off, and possess impregnating elongated mouth funnels. While "Almost Human" pays homage to some truly great horror and sci-fi films of the past, it fails to really personify its own identity and it crumbles under the weight of paying too much homage without building its own foundation.


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