When I inquired what this speaker meant, he assured me that because just about anyone with a camera and a cast could sling even the most low-budget attempt together the genre suffered from a lack of innovation. Instead, he felt that storytellers could churn out damn near anything, drape it with a copious amount of fake blood here and there, and – voila – screams could be heard. Indeed, there’s more than a bit of truth to such a position – I’ve made similar observations here and there – but such sentiments kinda/sorta overlook the fact that Horror – at the simplest level – is really only about producing frights and scares endemic to a particular story … and that could be it.
In the words of many a scriptwriter: “It ain’t exactly Shakespeare we’re crafting here.”
Still, I think audiences do expect a bit of respectability to go hand-in-hand with any feature they’ll spend time enjoying … but there’s sadly little to enjoy in Blumhouse’s Unhuman.
Essentially, it’s a zombie picture (but it’s not), a locked-box mystery (but it’s not), an Apocalypse thriller (but it’s not), and a teen-focused caper (but it’s not); writer/director Marcus Dunstan apparently never sought to have his little chiller amount to all that much more than just being one more attempt in the growing pantheon of teen-centric ideas with a pulse. In the end, it’s little more than filler before the next low-budget outing, doing a huge disservice to an otherwise interesting cast and crew who showed up seeking fortune and fame only to be rewarded with bad writing and misplaced MacGuffins.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“A group of high school students whose school bus crashes on a field trip. Relationships are tested once they realize they are being stalked by an attacker who intends to drive them out and straight into a horrifying fright to survive.”
About every ten years or so, the Horror genre in particular gets gifted with a new phenomenon. Its storytellers find a new gimmick – a new hook – that doesn’t so much re-invent the field so much as it presents audiences with something that hasn’t quite been seen this way before. The result is a deserved freshness, one that inevitably inspires a series of inferior imitators who’ll stop at nothing to glean whatever life is left in the business of bloody death … until such a time as the next gizmo reinvigorates audiences once again.
Alas, all Unhuman really manages to do for its young people is wrap them up in a somewhat confusing yarn that plucks a bit of everything from superior efforts that came before in hopes of delivering something original. It fails – and fails astoundingly – but that never stopped a cast and crew from trying.
And – in all fairness – it didn’t have to.
Many of the components for even a moderately interesting diversion were there. As Ever, actress Brianne Tju has a likeable degree of moxie – a spitfire who’ll go against the grain and the school’s class structure because she chooses to be an individual instead of one of the usual flock. Granted, her character never quite overcomes the level of predictability to Unhuman’s zombie set-up – and it would’ve been nice had she been less of a visual tomboy and more of an authentic scraper – but that’s small potatoes when compared to her screen counterparts. Peter Giles – as the film’s inappropriately screaming sole voice of author Mr. Lorenzo – produces a few laughs here and there, though his apparently dispatch too early in the movie truly hampers what could’ve been a better-rounded role had he lived and fought alongside those he so obviously despises. The comely Ali Gallo – while wasted with far too little to do here as the unassuming sidekick – makes for a convincingly unassured misfit paired with an almost girl-next-door vibe, and her short scenes elevate some of the otherwise mundane developments. Still, far too many of the remaining high school cast end up filling up roles carbon copied from other productions – the jock, the prima donna, the fat kid, the obnoxious know-it-all, etc. – never allowed Unhuman to appear, frankly, human in the final estimation.
Also, the film suffers – nearly falling apart, honestly – once the ruse is up, and the audience is brought in on the fact that all of this is little more than a hoax perpetrated to … well, it’s kinda/sorta unclear. We’re led to believe this was meant as a form of retribution and/or revenge against the school – if not society at large – on the part of those belittled as part of their adolescence experience. Audiences love to root for the underdog, but when the beast shows up with the propensity to infect others with a life-ending rabies such compassion gets tossed out the window rather quickly; and that’s the case here. However, the fact that some who’ve seemingly died get to come back to participate in the bloody mayhem despite perishing right in front of our eyes leaves me to wonder if something left on the cutting room floor might’ve had this one making a bit more sense than it did.
Laughs are solid in a few places, but logic needed greater attention if Unhuman was to emerge alive.
Sad fact: it doesn’t.
Unhuman (2022) was produced by Blumhouse Television. According to a quick Google.com search, the film is available via several streaming platforms. (In fact, I watched this one for free as part of my subscription to Amazon Prime.) As for the technical specifications? Well, Unhuman has the look and feel of about any teen-centric production; there are even some visual flourishes that work quite nicely. Clearly an attempt was made to assemble something that worked cogently … but the final cut here truly needed some more polish … if not a tighter script.
Not really recommended … except for die-hard Horror enthusiasts or Blumhouse aficionados …
Unhuman (2022) is the kind of thing that, alas, Horror production companies have been doing for years, so the film functions on its own internal efficiency, never trying to do anything fresh, new, or novel with any of its individual pieces. Though not a complete failure in any respect, the flick never quite congeals to the point where it makes perfect sense nor delivers a narrative greater than the sum of its parts. Though its low-hanging fruit might appeal to some, I’ll admit to requiring something a bit meatier in my diet.