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Movie Review: Almost Human (TIFF 2013)

Movie Almost Human (TIFF 2013)
09.20.2013by: Chris Bumbray
3 10


PLOT: Two years after being abducted by aliens, Mark (Josh Ethier) returns to his rural small town to reclaim his long lost girlfriend (Vanessa Leigh) and to prepare it for alien colonization through a brutal reign of violence and terror.

REVIEW: Right from the opening credits, which adopt a John Carpenter-esque font, it's clear that ALMOST HUMAN director Joe Begos is going for a down and dirty, eighties camp kind of vibe. Think of it as an affectionate homage to splatter flicks like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. As such, I was hoping that ALMOST HUMAN would deliver eighty-minutes of rock solid good times, but to my disappointment, it ended up being one of the real misfires of this year's midnight madness selection.

That's too bad, as usually TIFF is dead-on in their selections for this part of the fest, but ALMOST HUMAN feels like a waste of a slot that would have probably been better used by one of the movies in the vanguard selection, which deliver more thrills than this. Writer-director-cinematographer Joe Begos is clearly a talented guy. Despite the miniscule budget, the gore effects are solid, and the look of the film is polished. It's everything else that comes up kind of short.

The fact that ALMOST HUMAN is unoriginal isn't really the big issue here. It owes tons to any number of alien invasion movies, but this could have been overlooked had the writing been clever, or the performances more winning. Rather, it all comes off as a little amateurish. Star Graham Skipper isn't bad as the everyman slacker hero Seth, even though his character lacks any kind of wit to really make him someone to root for. However, Josh Ethier and Vanessa Leigh come up short in this department.

Ethier looks great, being a big blue-collar giant type with a shaved head and a crazy beard. It's a cool look considering he's our big bad, but character-wise he gets relatively little to do other than go around slaughtering people. He's supposed to be conflicted, with his love for Leigh's character confusing his mission, but that's never really conveyed too strongly. The same goes for Leigh, who's part is so thinly written that as an audience, we never care about her, which is a major issue. It's funny that some of the smaller parts, such as Skipper's hardware store co-worker, manage to make more of an impact in one or two scenes than they do in the entire film.

Suffice to say, I really didn't care at all for ALMOST HUMAN, although I'd still say Begos has potential as a director and especially as a cinematographer. At the very least, the movie looks good, and the tight eighty-minute running time is spot-on, and never feels like too much of a chore. At the same time though, the writing and performances come up terribly short and keep the film from being anything more than a quickie gore flick.

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