The Horror Honeys: ALMOST A GOOD MOVIE!


A Sci-Fi Honey Review by Katie

Almost Human (2014)

There’s always something inherently exciting about indie horror, regardless of the overall quality of the finished product.  In this genre especially there’s a real sense that the filmmakers behind an indie horror project are doing it not necessarily to earn a quick buck, but for their profound love of the genre and reverence for the artists who paved their way.  Even more exciting is an indie horror filmmaker who hits it big with a film and uses his newfound fame and financial success to continue to work in the genre, as is the case with filmmakers like Scott Derrickson, James Wan, and Eli Roth.  One of the latest DVD/VoD releases from indie horror distributor IFC Midnight, Almost Human is helmed by first time writer/director Joe Begos, a filmmaker whose potential in the horror film industry could be massive.  Almost Human will likely not be the big break for Begos, but despite some faults, the film comes off as a genuine attempt to honor all that the genre has to offer, and stokes the flame of potential in its budding horror/sci-fi cinematic auteur.

Supposedly based on actual events that occurred in Patten, Maine in the late 1980’s (have I really become so jaded to an opening title card that proclaims this, I almost always dismiss it altogether?), Almost Human opens on a frightened Seth Hampton (Graham Skipper), who has just seen his friend disappear into a beam of light and is manically trying to explain what occurred to friends Mark (Josh Ethier) and Jen (Vanessa Leigh).  Mark goes to investigate and is ultimately beamed up himself, never to be seen again… that is, until two years later, when Jen has no memory of the event and Seth has narrowly escaped being prosecuted for any involvement in Mark’s disappearance.  But is the Mark who comes back really the same Mark?

He's the same, but goo-ier. 
With Mark’s return commences a massive murder spree, and it is in these brutal sequences that the film really shines.  Between vicious stabbings, shotgun blasts, and axe-hackings, things get really unpleasant really fast, and Begos doesn’t skimp on shock or gore.  With nice, taut pacing going from kill to kill (the film packs a lot of death into an abbreviated 80-minute runtime), the film moves right along through Mark’s attempt to reclaim the home and people he knew before his absence.  Josh Ethier (also the film’s editor) is given very little room to flex his acting muscles once Mark becomes a post-abduction killing machine, however; if we had gotten to know his character a bit more before the inciting event, there might be an opportunity for the audience to marvel at his transformation.  As it stands, however, he’s a shell of a man housing an extraterrestrial evil, with nothing more than otherworldly shriek or a vacant stare to inspire dread.

"Honey, I'm home!"
Mark 2.0’s rampage is seemingly a quest to infect as many humans as possible with his black alien goo, whether it be mouth-to-mouth or any other convenient orifice (cringe), effectively turning them into pod-people.  If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it’s more or less a gruesome patchwork quilt of homages to other horror films and story elements from alien-centric science fiction.  Almost Human relies on an abduction story framework similar to Fire in the Sky, while the look and feel of the film clearly channels other indie “throwback” horrors like Ti West’s The House of the Devil (check out a hi-res version of the poster, which has a cool vintage vibe).  The film’s opening title sequence is even cut very similarly to John Carpenter’s The Thing and uses his beloved Albertus font.  In a VHS-era, Almost Human might’ve been one of the greatest B-movies to ever fly off the shelves.

Oh my god, that guy didn't rewind!
I really wanted this film to be better than it was, and I think that with some more character development and slightly less stilted acting, we are almost there.  The three acting leads, for their limited credits, have all produced work primarily in the horror genre; Begos, too, has a clear affection for horror, as the aforementioned films are lovingly present in his camera work, story themes, and special effects imagined here.  Ultimately, Almost Human satiates a horror fan’s bloodlust, but skimps on plot and fleshing out three-dimensional characters to bring us to a point where we care about what’s happening to whom on the screen.  It’s a confident effort, though, and assuredly won’t be the last we’ll see from Begos in the genre.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: three gooey alien blobs out of five.  Don’t go into the light.