DVDanger: 'Almost Human'
Attack of the intergalactic indies
By Richard Whittaker, 3:00PM, Sun. Jun. 22
Remember when aliens didn't engage in full-scale, all-CGI invasions, but just stuck to picking up hillbillies in the ass-end of nowhere? Almost Human (IFC) does.
A body snatching cousin of sorts to indie post-apocalyptic road trip Dead Weight, Almost Human drops straight into an alien abduction. Mark (Josh Ethier) is woken by his friend Seth (Graham Skipper) banging on his front door, rambling about their mutual friend being swept into the sky by a mysterious blue light. This being rural Maine, Mark decides to check out the weirdness with his shotgun, when he too is suddenly ripped away.
Fast forward two years, and Mark is still missing, his girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh) has moved on with her life and is trying to make ends meet in a lousy waiting job, and Seth (now cleared as a suspect in the disappearances) is suffering from odd nose bleeds. Then there's a new round of lights in the sky, and Mark reappears, out in the woods, naked but for a thin layer of Skywalker-brand blue milk, and emitting a weird keening sound like The Thing's shapeshifting kin. Seth gets nosebleeds, and Mark heads home on a full-bore killing spree. Because, you know, alien stuff. Turns out that he's been sent back to Earth by a species of parasitic invaders (Part Dreamcatcher shit weasel, part Star Trek: The Next Generation "Conspiracy"-era brain-draining freeloaders) to turn more grunge hillbillies into more shit weasel hosts.
First time director Joe Begos doesn't have a lot to work with, either script or budget-wise, and he's got no interest in re-inventing any wheels. Instead, Almost Human has a retro-straight-to-VHS sleazy charm, as the altered and blood-thirsty Mark starts butchering yokels and bringing them back as his milk-splattered alien vessels.
A big part of why this works at all is Ethier. Best known as Adam Green's favored editor (on projects like Fearnet's Holliston, Hatchet III, Chillerama, and the upcoming Digging the Marrow) rather than an actor, he does hairy post-grunge bearded maniac with suitable heavy-creepiness.
However, this isn't really a film that's big on performances, with Skipper looking constantly surprised, and Leigh (seemingly New England's go-to scream queen) waiting for her next scene to be covered in gore and goop. Instead, this is a Begos delivering some old-school practical effect kills at a pretty high density, and with no concerns about the squeamishness of the audience.
Honestly, there's not much more plot than in his five minute short/proof of concept "Toxin", included here as a DVD extra. That, at least, has the innovation of being a POV from the parasite's point of view. Almost Human is just a Corman/Cannon homage, with the occasional crossed line (an intergalactic oral sex scene may tack a little too close 80s slimebag bloodbaths like Galaxy of Terror, Humanoids From the Deep and Inseminoid for some [read: a lot] of tastes.)
But is there anything wrong with a goretastic indie scifi horror? If your answer is 'no,' then there's worse ways to spend 80 minutes with Almost Human. It's no Xtro, but then, what is?
Almost Human (IFC Midnight) is out now on DVD and VOD.