'Almost Human' made of strong parts that don't fit

Posted3/13/2014 5:00 AM

Writer/director/photographer Joe Begos loves campy, exploitation midnight movies, maniac massacres, sci-fi films and graphic horror tales so much, he stuffed a whole bunch of them into his feature film debut "Almost Human."

Look carefully and you'll notice not-so-subtle references to "Halloween," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Shining," "Friday the 13th," "Fire in the Sky," "Night of the Living Dead" plus a kajillion other genre films. It's a bloody valentine to the low-budget shockers of the sort that once flooded the screen at New York's seedy Liberty Theater on 42nd Street.


"Almost Human" opens with a blinding light sucking local resident Mark (editor Josh Ethier) into the sky in front of his best pal Seth (Graham Skipper) and girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh).

Two years later, hunters find a naked Mark shivering in the woods. They become his first victims as Mark goes for Jason Voorhees' kill record with a chain saw, shotgun, hunting knife and super strength.

Seth, plagued by nightmares from the earlier event, gets to say pithy lines such as, "Something weird is going on!" Jen agrees: "I have a feeling something bad is going to happen!"

And boy, does it, in bizarre and twisted midnight movie ways.

It's apparent that Mark wants to reconnect with Jen (and by "reconnect," we don't mean emotionally).

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But why Mark slaughters people, then pumps their bodies full of reanimation goo remains a mystery. Is this just a really stupid alien strategy to take over Earth? Did Mark escape or was he dispatched?

Character motivation, cleverness and intelligence don't factor into "Almost Human," a gory genre homage that could have been an underground terror treat, instead of a "Cult Movies' Greatest Hits."

"Almost Human" opens at the Music Box in Chicago. Not rated; contains graphic violence, sexual situations, adult language, nudity. 80 minutes. ★

• Dann Gire's Reel Life column runs Fridays in Time out!

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