With its aliens and its small town Maine setting, Almost Human could nearly be mistaken for a Stephen King adaptation. Nearly. Not the likes of The Shawshank Redemption or Stand By Me, or even the more mediocre adaptations like Dreamcatcher, but – at a big stretch – one of the really, really budget ones. The only thing holding it back from this comparison is that King adaptations – even the fairly awful ones, of which there are a few – tend to at least have a vaguely original storyline.
Almost Human is your bog-standard, alien abduction gore-fest. It starts with flashing blue lights and the strange disappearance of Mark (Josh Ethier), then continues two years later with Mark’s sudden return. Only now – wait for it – Mark’s different (and different in this sense means he sometimes makes strange high-pitched noises and seems to enjoy killing people with any nearby household object he can get his hands on, chainsaw included).
It’s no big leap to say that the film’s main problem is its lack of originality. The storyline is so clichéd it borders on parody at times, and the dialogue – including such gems as ‘Something’s not right’ and ‘I just feel… strange’ – is forgettable at its best and grating at its worst. The overall affect is a patchwork quilt of different films and TV influences that have been flung awkwardly together to create a kind of bland, paint-by-numbers horror movie template; there’s the shining blue light in the sky, the gleeful blood splatter effects, the premonitory dreams – there’s even a shivering, naked man found in the middle of nowhere who has to kill to steal some clothes and a vehicle, à la Terminator. In another scene a crazed man bashes at a locked cupboard with an axe, only to have his hand stabbed by the woman hiding behind the door. It’s one ‘Heeere’s Johhny’ away from being an actual King adaptation.
The thing is, the horror template that writer/director Joe Begos sticks to so rigidly doesn’t make for a really bad film, necessarily – just a really stale one. The formula is so tried and tested that – with one disturbing exception near the end – we pretty much know exactly what’s going to happen. We’ve seen it a hundred times before, and it’s this predictability that kills off any chance of excitement or suspense.
The director is clearly a big fan of horror and sci-fi who wanted to have a stab at the genre himself – the result might have been enjoyable to make, but it isn’t enjoyable to watch.