I recently caught Joe Begos’s debut feature film “Almost Human” through the platform VOD (video on demand). It’s an independent horror/sci-fi film that was shot in Rhode Island and set in the 80’s. It was made for an estimated budget of $50,000. The film is about Mark Fisher (played by Josh Ethier), a young man who mysteriously disappeared two years ago after several flashes of blue light appeared outside his house. Neither his friend, Seth (Graham Skipper) nor his girlfriend, Jen (played by Vanessa Leigh) have heard anything from Mark since. Two years have passed and Seth starts experiencing dreams and visions of Mark’s return…. the problem is Mark isn’t exactly himself anymore and no one is safe.
For starters lets talk about the fantastic production value of Almost Human. When an estimated $50,000 was spent on the film you’d think this would scream “film school project” but it doesn’t. Based on the technical aspects and clever use of locations you would think this had ten times the budget. The camera work often keeps you at a distance, acting as a catalyst behind the mystery of these characters. I’m assuming most of it was shot with a steady-cam, it’s mostly smoothly shot and easy enough to watch. The audio is a little hollow in a few places and could use a bit of work but most of the dialogue was clear. I have to mention the great use of bass sound effects and the overall score is pretty good. It’s very reminiscent of films like John Carpenters, “The Thing” as well as Stephen King’s, “Dreamcatcher”.
The actors/actresses were also a breath of fresh air. I haven’t seen Josh, Graham or Vanessa in any other films before. They aren’t perfect, there is a moment or two throughout some of the more emotional scenes where it feels a little forced and flat but for the most part it’s good. I did a bit of research on Josh and found out he has some experience in editing. He worked on the TV-series, “Holliston” as well as the recent horror/thriller film, “Contracted” and now he has done the editing for Almost Human as well as played the lead role. The pacing of this film is its greatest strength and it’s really what makes it work. At just 70 minutes (excluding credits), it’s very fast and has three very definitive acts. In addition to the storytelling and discovery of Mark’s whereabouts for the past two years, we get some of the best practical effects I’ve seen in a film with this type of budget. Some of the action sequences have some choppy choreography but deliver with plenty of the red stuff to make up for that. Use of axe’s, knives and guns make for some of the classic kills you’d hope to see. If this was a PG-13 type of film I don’t think it would work anywhere near as well as it does. One particular kill at a gas station stands out above the rest (but I won’t spoil it for you).
I can’t say Almost Human contains much of the bad. Like I said, the audio could use a bit of work in a few spots, along with some of the color in certain scenes looking a little washed out. That may be due to the time of the year the film was shot though or made to look that way on purpose. Joe’s got a cool screenplay here but it’s not all that original though I’m not one to really criticize a filmmaker just because of that. We all have our favourite films and the inspiration for making your own film probably comes from what you’ve grown up with. This is simply a more modern amd gore drive Horror/Sci-fi film comparable to some of the best like “Dreamcatcher”, “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” or “The Thing”. I think where the film could have hit its straps was in the dream/vision portion of the story. What was shot didn’t add much to the context of the plot, we already understood the basics of what had happened to Josh. I was looking for some greater meaning not just “they are looking to take over the world”, that could have been better thought out.
I also had to think back to the opening credits where we are told the film takes place somewhere towards the end of the 80’s. I didn’t pay particular enough attention to vehicles, houses, technology or anything else for that matter. However, I can only really say I felt the 80’s aspect more so because of the way Joe pays homage to some of those great films from the era, other than that I wouldn’t have known the time period so I’m not sure why he opted to set it in that time.
Anyways, when the credits finally rolled I felt thoroughly entertained and after all that’s what you watch a film like this for. It’s got all the makings of a good low-budget indie Horror/Sc-fi flick. With a little smoothing round the edges and some development in the plot this could have been one of the greats. I think for a debut feature film this is about the best you’re going to see, given the very low-budget. Almost Human is currently on VOD and Amazon platforms but those in other countries will have to wait for the official Dvd release. Stay tuned and be sure to check this one out!
My rating for “Almost Human” is 7/10