The Horror Honeys: THE UN-AMAZING RACE!


A Sci-Fi Honey Review by Katie

The Human Race (2014)

If films like Battle Royale, Kill Theory, Death Race, and The Hunger Games have taught us anything, it’s that there’s a unique fan base for survivalist action/horror.  Audiences for these films crave a fight to the death; humans pitted against each other in grave combat to triumph in outwitting (and outliving) their competitors. When done well, these films can achieve meaning beyond the mechanics of their situational plot and grapple over what lengths someone will go to when faced with desperate circumstances, make a statement about the inequities of society, or depict the oft-challenged power of the underdog.

When done poorly, however, you get a film with absolutely no style, depth, or purpose.
You get The Human Race.

Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 film adaptation of Battle Royale set the tone for survivalist horror, and since then there have been variations on the same theme: a group of people are forced into participating in a “to-the-death” challenge of one kind of another, with the last remaining victor winning some prize (or just the fact that they’re alive, that’s kind of a win in and of itself).  Paul Hough’s The Human Race takes 80 strangers from one random block of a random city and, in a flash of light, transports them to an abandoned institutional landscape.  Telepathically, the competitors receive the rules of the game: if you step on the grass, you die.  If you are lapped twice, you die.  Race or die.  Blah blah blah.

If you have terrible fashion sense, you die.
Someone immediately steps on the grass, of course, and their head comically explodes, but only after we’ve already been given a several minutes-long backstory about their battle against (and conquest of) a lengthy terminal illness.  Here’s a good storytelling tactic: get us invested in a character’s tenacity for survival, and then completely negate it in the next scene by depicting them stupidly not following the most basic of instructions.  This was probably an attempt at irony, but it only resulted in my unwillingness to settle in for another 80-odd minutes of watching what other boneheaded things these characters do.

You mean, this grass right here...?
Our gruff hero is “Eddie” (Eddie McGee), a crutch-wielding single-legged amputee who is poised at the outset to be an underdog, but uses his disability to his advantage (the rules don’t say anything about stepping on the grass with crutches, ha!  Take that, telepathic rule-maker!)  Eddie eventually pairs up with a character only known as “Deaf Female,” who is defined by being deaf and also a female: further evidence of the depth of character offered up by this film.

Oh man, they just killed... that guy.
People race, people die, and the telepathic voice in everyone’s head ticks down the survivors as the film wears on; 80, 79, 78… until there is one.  Writer/director Paul Hough is new to the game as a feature filmmaker, and uses every ostentatious tactic in the book to get his directorial style noticed – canted angles, gritty filters, flashy MTV-style editing – which comes off as more annoying than stylistically interesting.  Hough seems to be going for a sci-fi “grindhouse” feel but instead delivers something that is amateurish at best, insulting at worst.  By the time he’s arbitrarily killed off children and pregnant women, depicted an attempted rape, and tacked on a cheesy religious allegory angle, you’ll beg for Hough to bring you to the finish line.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating:  Zero exploding heads out of five.  Shoulda stayed off the grass.