My biggest problem with most alien abduction flicks is that they lack bite. Some lights flicker, eyes might bleed, loud noises screech through the air, but it’s typically a bunch of people levitating or vanishing. Take The Fourth Kind for example – it tries, it really does, but all we’re left with are owl faces and stories of abduction. Almost Human is not that movie, because writer/director Joe Begos brilliantly works the gory thrills of a gleeful slasher movie into a creature-heavy alien story with all the usual abduction trimmings. We get the bright lights and high-pitched screams, but afterwards, Begos gives us oh so much more.
We’ve all heard stories of alien abductions – flashy lights, missing bodies, and unsavory anal probing. This is the case one night while Seth (Graham Skipper) and his buddy are driving to another friend’s house, as Seth is the only one who makes it to Mark’s (Josh Ethier) abode. Confused, Mark hears Seth ramble on about ear-piercing screams and bright flickers, but before long that same ominous blue glow reappears – and Mark vanishes in a blast of blinding confusion. Fast forward two years and Mark’s lover has moved on, Seth is attempting to regain stability – and the same strange occurrences have returned. Seth, having experienced vision-like nightmares, is convinced Mark has returned as well, but not as himself. Could a brand new version of Mark be responsible for all the dead bodies turning up across Maine, a version of Mark inhabited by some strange new life-form? Um, maybe?
First time feature director Joe Begos transports us back to a golden era of horror – the 1980s. Effects focused on pure gross outs, violence was at a premium, and horror meant having an absolute blast. Begos achieves such a feat without help from Doc Brown and his Delorean, instead blending numerous horror subgenres into one maniacal film that relentlessly strives for originality. Almost Human simultaneously creates a gripping new vision of alien abduction horror that also pays proper tribute to the gritty creature features of old, from the undulating flesh pods birthing more evil creatures, to the severed limbs flying about. Joe Begos understands horror, dissects an entire era, and Frankensteins an astounding first effort that oozes respect for a genre so often taken advantage of.
First time horror efforts are usually accompanied by a “challenging” cast, but Almost Human sports some loveable genre turns from both our hero and villain. It’s Graham Skipper who plays Seth, the bloody-nosed, paranoid resident who suffers from a chronic case of “The Boy Who Cried Alien.” Skipper brings a serious attitude to the character, because watching your friends be abducted by aliens tends to leave a mental scar. After the slasher mentalities kick in though, Seth becomes a self-aware badass at points, fighting pod-monsters with the enthusiasm and vigor of writing a college essay.
Playing antagonist, it’s Josh Ethier who arrives like an extraterrestrial Terminator robot hellbent on “fixing” the human race. A burly lumberjack of a man, Ethier’s posture just screams intimidation, and as townfolk attempt to avoid his rage, they just find more graphic ways to die. His cold, dead, blank stare eats directly into your soul – and then out shoots his Alien-inspired tentacle oddity. Ethier isn’t overly dominant where he’s indestructible, but his character is brutish enough where his sheer presence sends a chill up your spine.
Begos’ crowning achievement revolves around squeamishly enjoyable practical effects work, which is worth its weight in horror gold. Think Invasion Of The Body Snatchers meets The Thing meets Friday The 13th. Ethier is honestly a walking, talking version of Jason Voorhees, his alien extensions are gnarly, slimy, squirmy creature effects, and Ethier’s victims become bastard alien spawns – again hitting on the tonal crockpot Begos simmers to near perfection, infusing each flavor together in full.
Almost Human is certainly one hell of a good throwback horror movie. Joe Begos emerges as this old-school savant who picks up some rubber body parts, fake blood, and starts hacking away at his actors with an axe, bone saw – whatever destructive tool is lying around. CGI? We don’t need your stinking CGI – and Begos proves that down-and-dirty filmmaking will always win versus glossy, shoddy animation work. Come for the aliens, stay for the practicality, and leave feeling a sense of nostalgia that reminds us of the good old days – soaked in a thick, sticky red fluid.
Almost Human is a hybrid alien abduction/slasher film that embodies everything awesome about horror in the 1980s - gooey practical effects and all.