For Almost Human, writer/director Joe Begos does a brilliant job of blending together the alien abduction and slasher subgenres all while hearkening back to many genre fans favorite era of horror films- the 1980’s. While it certainly contains all the usual tropes we’ve come to expect from these types of films, Almost Human does something rare in the indie horror world- it manages to find a way to deliver a truly unexpected story and works in a ton of low-budget ingenuity along the way.
Almost Human starts where most abduction films end: with the actual abduction. The story opens with a frantic young man named Seth (Graham Skipper) who’s speeding to his buddy Mark’s house after he experiences some really weird occurrences including ear-piercing noises, flashing lights, weird sounds and strange rumblings. Before Seth gets a chance to tell Mark what he’s seen, Mark vanishes in a blinding blue light, leaving a devastated Seth and everyone else behind to try and pick up the pieces in the wake of his abduction.
As far as feature film debuts go, Begos makes quite a ballsy introduction with his work on Almost Human. It’s a gleefully gory and truly thoughtful mash-up of some of my very favorite things from classic horror: a relentless and gripping story, a wonderfully maniacal and bloodthirsty killer and tons of inventive practical effects gags that make me yearn for the days when CGI wasn’t the inexpensive way to get blood into your movie.
Almost Human truly goes for broke in its third act with one jaw-dropping scene that will undoubtedly having many fans squirming in their seats. Very rarely do you see indie horror films of this intensity that can deliver a satisfying ending, but Almost Human sticks the landing with a conclusion that’s just as jarring and surprising as its opening was. It’s also something of an anomaly to see horror movies made at this budgetary level that can truly hit every note perfectly, but Almost Human pretty much does just that. What’s even more incredible, Begos and his stellar cast all make it look rather easy with their efforts.
For most of Almost Human, it’s Skipper’s character Seth who we’re wired into emotionally from start to finish and he does a really great job of keeping the audience immersed in his constant state of frenzied fear and panic. Something else I really enjoyed was seeing Seth, as a character, transform throughout the story, morphing him from the paranoid “Boy Who Cried Wolf” into a badass who will stop at nothing to save his town and ultimately, humanity.
Vanessa Leigh also does a nice job playing Mark’s former girlfriend Jen, as Begos definitely puts her through the paces with a role that was both emotionally and physically taxing. The real star here is Ethier who’s an absolutely a terrifying force of nature in Almost Human. Think Terminator meets Jaws meets Michael Myers and then inject that with a dose of the Pod People from Invasion of the Body Snatchers- just a wonderfully savage role that Ethier does fantastic things with.
As a whole, Almost Human is just a hell of a lot of fun to watch. For anyone who grew up during the 1980’s, or what I call the golden age of creature features and slasher horror, Begos’ feature film debut will undoubtedly be right up your proverbial alley. There are many films that have tried to capture that perfect throwback feel, but none have come close to the evoking the kind of nostalgia Begos masterfully creates with Almost Human and while taking us on that journey back several decades, he also throws in a clever deconstruction of all those films he’s paying homage to. For me, Almost Human is the perfect example of low-budget, high ambition horror cinema and I can’t recommend it enough to fans.
Movie Score: 4/5