Joe Begos’ “Almost Human” Kills At Beyond Fest

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Note: This article is in reference to the Joe Begos film Almost Human, not the upcoming Fox television show of the same name.

“I just needed to make a fucking movie,” Almost Human director Joe Begos said, addressing the crowd post-screening at Los Angeles’ Egyptian Theater on Friday night. October 25 marked the L.A. premiere of film presented by Beyond Fest, which officially ends its 23-day festival on Halloween. The film was picked up by IFC after screening at Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness back in September and has since screened at Fantastic Fest.

Almost Human is the story of Seth Hampton (Graham Skipper), a man who witnesses his best friend Mark (Josh Ethier) disappear from their small Maine town in a blaze of bright blue light and an ear-piercing wave of inhuman squeal. Two years later, Seth fears a similar danger on the horizon. Sure enough, murders start occurring from town to town leading back to Patten. Mark has returned, but not as the same Mark that disappeared years earlier.

“We made the film for $50,000, so it’s a little rough around the edges,” said Begos as he introduced the film to an eager and enthusiastic audience. Before and after the film, he’d make small jabs at his own experience and creative process. All self-inflicted put-downs were completely unnecessary, however, as Begos’ debut feature KILLED the LA crowd that night. During the Q&A after the screening, Almost Human was referred to as the “little film that could,” and it truly is. It’s the little film that could and will bring a lot of excitement when it’s released next year (a March/April release is rumored).

The idea of a throwback horror film isn’t something new. Begos even admits that Almost Human isn’t anything that an audience hasn’t seen before. And while this may be true, it’s much more than the same-old. The story takes place in 1987, but does so in a way that doesn’t scream 80s. It’s so matter-of-fact that the audience isn’t ever reminded that this is a story from decades ago. In that way, there’s also a slight nostalgia to the film. The story is straight-forward (though alien abduction movies aren’t necessarily as common as other subgenres), the characters can be surface-level at times, and there aren’t a lot of added frills. But the film is a fun film which can either add to the nostalgia of 80s horror for some, or for people like me who were born after the “Golden Age,” can be a pleasant change in pace from the common plot-twist driven films that flood the market now.

Prior to the screening, Begos urged the audience to let it be known when there was any gore or any kills that we were into. Enthusiastic as horror fans may be, we’ll also be the first to be vocal about something we don’t like. Lucky for us, every bit of gore in Almost Human was exactly what the audience wanted and when they wanted it. And they were all practical effects, which reminds us that there is heart and soul in the blood splatter. Again, a simple story doesn’t call for much, but there was a great balance of violence/effects seen and left unseen for the audience to fill in the visual “mad libs” for themselves.

Some people will find it hard to get past some of the shallowness of some characters or the straight-forwardness of the plot, and that’s understandable. But it would be a disservice to not honor Begos and his crew for making a film like this on such a small budget. Begos was joined by stars Graham Skipper and Josh Ethier (also the film’s editor) for a Q&A after the screening where they talked about the trials and tribulations of shooting on such a budget. Stories about how there was a camera crew of only Joe Begos and associate producer Cory Lockman for much of the film, how the 18-day shoot started with a crew of twenty and ended with only twelve, and how weather conditions during a Rhode Island winter were not ideal. But those troubles were followed by how the shoot was “like summer camp,” or how the crew of twelve was almost more efficient because it was made up of the filmmakers who wanted so badly to make the film. It’s exiting and inspiring to know that great horror is still being made by passionately people, by go-getters who put everything into their work. As for Joe Begos’ next project? “I want to make one. I just need to get some fucking money first.” Here’s to hoping that’s sooner than later.