Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rocktobering These Unhumans

Indiana’s HorrorHound Weekend produced many a wonderful thing: a new copy of The Stabilizer, fried bleu cheese sticks, epic karaoke, and a doozy more wonders you’ll only hope to experience if you come on down to Cincinnati for November’s followup convention. The most important part of those three days, however, was the biannual chance I now get to spend time and alcohol with some of my favorite Internet entities.

Chief amongst these superheroes is none other than one T.L. Bugg (aka Zach), author extraordinaire of The Lightning Bug’s Lair. As loyal readers know, Zach and I have been doing movie swaps for the last few months and our April extravaganza gets even more special. This go around, we each bought a movie at the convention tables for one another to review. Wacky!

My pick: an awesomely titled yet SHOCKINGLY unknown something-or-other called Rocktober Blood. The fact that a film with such a great name could go unnoticed can’t bode too well for poor Zach, but I’m sure there’s at least one slice of great ‘80s cheese to keep it entertaining. For my part, Zach chose The Unhuman, a new independent film made by a pair of Indiana teenagers with a love of genre cinema.

Quick Plot: While filming an alien invasion movie for school, a group of boys discover a mysterious meteor filled with gelatinous water balloons--I mean, eggs. Believing such a find to be quite lucrative, the gang agrees to keep it secret until they can formulate the best money-making plan. In the meantime, a grizzled hunter happens upon the now glowing rock, getting strangled by its squiggle arms before reanimating to attack our young heroes.

Though we never quite learn the origin of the meteor, it’s easy enough to catch its gist: infect earthlings who in turn infect one another. The only thing standing between it and world domination (maybe) are our leads, the nerdy Jacob and former wresting team star Michael (played, respectively, by filmmakers Jacob & Michael Guess). As their friends slowly succumb to some cheeky alien goo, our heroes discover some tricks for battle, including hot pepper and of course, good old fashioned explosions.
The fact that The Unhuman, a film made by two middle-to-high schoolers, features better special effects than Birdemic is certainly worth noting. Of course, if you’ve seen James Nguyen’s earnest environmental love story thriller, you know that ‘better than Birdemic’ isn’t exactly bragging rights, so let me find my own inner Ernest and say The Unhuman is indeed a well-made indie.

Brothers Jacob and Michael Guess are clearly life-long film fans, and even though their lives haven't been that long, it's an affection that energizes The Unhuman as something special. The story itself is hardly original, but the plot points connect far more successfully than a whole lot of other 'professional' horror films I've watched, and I'm not only talking about those Mill Creek packs. Sure, their go-to move is the fake-out jump scare, but oddly enough, the fact that the film uses it so much somehow makes the actual surprises all the more effective. It may be a happy accident, but mix that in with a good soundtrack and effects that that seem culled from an advanced art class and you have an actual movie.
High Points
While most of the effects won't dazzle, the alien faces are oddly neat

It’s easy to put homages to the films that have influenced you in your script, but it takes a certain kind of finesse to pull them off. One of my biggest beefs in low budget horror is when screenwriters think they’re clever for giving characters names like Romero or Carpenter, when the sheer simplicity of that just makes real film fans roll their eyes. Props to the Brothers Guess, then, for sprinkling in film references to everything from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to The Thing without having to blatantly call attention to themselves

Low Points
This is mostly a note for the filmmaker commentary track, which is incredibly charming save for one uncomfortable joke that keeps reappearing: in this day and age boys, we do not throw around the words gay and homosexual as if they were insults. Just a life lesson I can't not impart
Lessons Learned
Unlike burgers or a fine Ver-sace gown, Alien baked brownies do indeed suck

If a meteor that has just fallen to the ground is still smoking, you can bet your burned finger that it’s probably still hot
When planning on attacking someone, avoid handing them an anybody-can-use weapon two minutes before doing so
I was dreading the act of watching The Unhuman. It can’t be good, I figured, but how can I be hard on a film made by such enthusiastic and motivated kids who are, you know, MAKING A MOVIE when they could be playing XBox? Luckily, I’m touched to say The Unhuman--all 59 minutes of it--actually shows genuine promise. It won't wow or terrify you, but film fans who appreciate these types of DIY projects, particularly when they have such young talent behind them, could potentially enjoy it. I have yet to see wunderkind Emily Hagins' Pathogen, but I imagine those who supported that film might be curious to check out The Unhuman. It's refreshing to see a new generation of filmmakers entering the fold with such discipline so if you want to learn more, head to their official website.

We’re not done yet! You haven’t even prepared to be rocktobered. Or blooded. Or rocktober blooded. I don’t know what any of it means, so go get the news over at The Lightning Bug’s Lair!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this just sounds terrible. Rocktober Blood is just amazing in so many ways. I posted a video on my blog, inspired by TL's post.