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Almost Human (2013)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/17/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/20/2014
As we know, trends come and go, and when I was growing up, fascination with the unknown and the unexplained was all the rage. The television show In Search Of..., which debuted in 1976, brought all kinds of weird stuff into our living rooms, such as UFOs, Bigfoot, and The Loch Ness Monster. I can remember that my small, conservative school library had books on these subjects. This was long before The X-Files and the pervasiveness of movies, books, and shows on the unknown made it a part of the culture. Therefore, I'm often surprised that we don't see more movies which go back to these touchstone ideas. (Having said that, I know that a Bigfoot movie pops up every now and then, but how many of them are watchable?) Almost Human starts out by tapping this gold mine of lost ideas and then goes off in its own direction.
Almost Human opens in 1987, as we see Seth (Graham Skipper) frantically driving down a country road. He arrives at the home of Mark (Josh Ethier) and reports that their mutual friend Rob has vanished. While Mark and his wife Jen (Vanessa Leigh) are trying to make sense of what Seth is saying, the lights go out. Mark steps outside to investigate and he disappears into a beam of blue light. The story then leaps ahead two years. Seth works at a hardware store, but he's barely functioning. Jen, who works at a diner, has a new fiance. Suddenly, Mark appears in the forest, naked and covered in slime. He kills two hunters, takes their clothes and weapons, and then starts back to his hometown. Mark has clearly changed and he's now on a rampage to find Jen and do some very horrible things.
Due to the fact that Almost Human is set in the 80s and that there's liberally use of what I call the "John Carpenter Font" in the credits, Writer/Director Joe Begos is clearly enamored with older movies. It appears that he saw the 1993 film Fire in the Sky and said, "I like the whole 'everyman is abducted by aliens' idea, but the movie simply didn't go far enough." So, by adding elements of 1987's The Hidden and any slasher movie from the 80s, Begos has created a movie which plays like a love-letter to the genre.
And there's no denying that he brings some energy to the project. Again, the movie hits the ground running with the high-octane opening sequence. Things slow a bit in the middle, but they get bonkers again towards the end and I got the feeling that Begos was going for a vibe similar to that found in Re-Animator. Begos also shows us how to make an alien abduction movie on the cheap -- you don't have any aliens. Granted, the word "alien" is never used here, but the movie doesn't shy away from the idea either. But, even in the flashback scenes which show what Mark endured, we don't see aliens. The movie does contain some interesting makeup effects which show Mark carrying out his plan, but the look or the identity of the aliens are kept to our imagination.
Almost Human certainly has some interesting attributes, but it's simply too shallow to be truly winning. We get little character development here and the movie chooses not to examine what Seth's life has been like in the intervening years. We get that Mark returns as part of an alien invasion (sort of), but why don't the aliens do it themselves? Why two years later? Is this simply an alien disguised as Mark? If so, then why is he so driven to see Jen? This movie is meant to be a calling-card to the industry, so details like this get pushed to the side to make way for the action and gore. The film itself runs only 71 minutes before 8 minutes of slow-crawling credits. Still, the old-school ideas and the gory action of the finale will win over some horror aficionados.
Almost Human also borrows from Night of the Living Dead on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of MPI Media. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, although there is a notable sheen of grain on the screen which is very obvious during the brighter scenes. There are no obvious defects from the source materials. The colors look realistic, but the picture is slightly dark. The level of detail is acceptable, as the picture never goes soft, but the image is flat for a Blu-ray Disc. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects arenít overwhelming, but they work well when sounds are coming from off-screen. The surround sound effects are obvious during the finale, and when Mark is abducted. The latter scene also brings home the subwoofer.
The Almost Human Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Joe Begos and actor Josh Ethier. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with Begos, Ethier, Graham Skipper and Associate Producer Cory Lockman. "Making of" (45 minutes) kicks off by letting us know that the film's original title was "Extraterrestrial". From there, we get an in-depth look at the film's production. Centered on comments form Begos, we also hear from various other members of the team and there is an abundance of on-set footage. As one would expect, this offers a look at the makeup effects. "Behind the Scenes" (5 minutes) is a very brief EPK-like making of, which offers comments from the primary cast and Begos, on-set footage, and an overview of the story. "On Set with Graham Skipper" (2 minutes) is a reel of comments from the actor. "Toxin" (4 minutes) is a short film from Begos (and it's actually pretty creative). We get three different TRAILERS for the film, as well as a "Vintage" TV SPOT and a PHOTO GALLERY.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long