We’re forever wrapped in a struggle to survive the elements. Survive the day. Survive a job. Survive a marriage. Survive the weekend. You get where this is going. Several good film stories have captured that great race to live to see another day, but rarely does one come along with as much obvious allegory as 2013’s The Human Race.
Made on a budget and with very few (if any) familiar faces, it’s one more trip into The Twilight Zone where the ordinary man finds himself trapped by extraordinary circumstances which require his undivided attention … or the price of failure might very well be his head.
(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 three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“Eighty strangers from all walks of life are ripped out of their daily lives and forced to participate in a brutal race to the death. The rules are simple; follow the arrows or you will die, step on the grass and you will die, get lapped twice and you will die. Only one participant will survive. Race or die. There can be only one winner, but who will survive and for what purpose?”
Essentially, what you have with an inspired bit of storytelling that takes the shape of The Human is a modern-day episode of The Twilight Zone or another installment of The Outer Limits. (FYI: A good one, at that.) While the provided studio synopsis implies that these people are all strangers, that’s not entirely accurate: a few small groups are pulled out of reality together for this most extreme competition ever, and I suspect that’s a requirement in order to give this tale the kind of emotional grounding required of its early scenes.
However, the narrative as constructed by writer/director Paul Hough leaves a bit to be desired.
It’s a bare bones affair from start-to-finish, and this means that not a lot of time, effort, and money went into pre-production and the eventual crafting of it for the silver screen. Right off the bat, I thought that I’d somehow picked up a foreign film (the opening narration might be French with English subtitles), so a qualifier could’ve been inserted to give audiences a proper time and place. I say categorically that there’s nothing wrong with foreign films, people – in fact, I watch quite a few of them each week in my bid to be a widely read internet media critic – but the provided set-up didn’t need to be given in non-English especially as the rest of the ride is in that language. As a consequence, some folks might not survive the opening sequence, turning it off as they conclude it was intended for a different audience. (Yes, yes, and yes: we’ll call them ‘knuckleheads.’)
Once it becomes clear precisely what is going on here – a city-spanning game of survival – then it’s easy to relax and enjoy the ride. Hough’s script provides plenty of characters worth watching in here, and he necessarily keeps the emphasis on the rising tension between those who wish to understand this event versus those who simply want to survive it. Needless to say (because of the type of picture), not everyone does survive, but if you want to know what is finally truly going on you must hang with this all the way to the very last frame. What you learn may not be entirely original … but I thought it was definitely worth the trip.
Lastly, I’d be remiss in my duties as reviewer if I failed to point out that Race won ‘Best Feature Film’ at the 2013 Dragon*Con Short Film Festival. Also, actress Trista Robinson won the ‘Best Female Performance’ from the 2013 A Night of Horror International Film Festival. (FYI: Robinson’s work is pretty terrific.) The film has racked up an impressive list of other accolades that you can find at IMDB.com if you’re interested. Bravo, indeed!
The Human Race (2013) was produced by Paul Hough Entertainment. DVD distribution was coordinated by the fine folks at XLRator Media. As for the technical specifications? This tight little indie has some very interesting cinematography but I’ll admit that the audio track could’ve used a better mix through a couple of sequences. (FYI: it isn’t anything all that distracting; it’s just that it isn’t very inspired, either.) If it’s special features you want, then you have a director and cast commentary to look forward to as well as some deleted scenes (nothing special) and the theatrical trailer. A good collection!
Look, I’m not even going to try to convince you that The Human Race (2013) is your kind of film if you’ve seen the trailer, viewed the box art, stumbled across it in a streaming platform queue, or happened across it on the shelves of your corner video store (assuming one of those still exists where you are). Methinks those folks are truly inspired by B-movies will know a reasonable quality B-movie when they see it, and this Race certainly fits that bill. In fact, some of its camera work might be considered too artsy for the average B-movie fan … but that’s exactly the kind of visual surprise I like when I’m looking for one.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at XLRator Media provided me with a DVD copy of The Human Race (2013) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.