The Underground is our recurring feature, resurrected from an all-time great CHUD column, the aim of which is to get the word out on projects outside the Hollywood studio system. Studio films have big promotion engines behind them. The Underground caters to everything else: from indie films, to cult films in the making, pet projects, guerrilla films, internet shorts, etc.

Almost HumanI’m always happy to get the word out on good horror, especially good indie horror, which is notoriously hard to do and harder even to do well.  On that note, got to give kudos to first-time feature director / writer / producer / DP, Joe Begos, whose film, Almost Human (not to be confused with the current Fox show, but I’ll endorse that one as well) provides a good amount of old school gore, pays bloody homage to and gives a bit of a spin to Invasion of the Body SnatchersAlmost Human could be described as half that film and half Fire in the Sky, except that main antagonist Josh Ethier wastes a lot more people than DB Sweeney upon his return from an alien abduction.  Although I’m sure DB still looks better in a skating outfit.  Props to you if you get that gag.

The story centers on Ethier’s character of Mark Fisher, a burly, lumberjack-looking gent in rural Maine, who disappears one night in 1987 via a bright light in the sky and a piercing sound in the air.  His best friend, Seth (Graham Skipper), and girlfriend, Jen (Vanessa Leigh), were in the house the night that he disappeared.  And for a while afterward, Seth was suspected of foul play in not only Mark’s disappearance, but another friend named Rob who is never seen but was riding in Seth’s car when he was taken right before Mark.  But neither Seth nor Jen can clearly remember what happened that night, although Seth seems connected to the event in some kind of way, as he’s recently been having dreams about it and his nose has been bleeding.  It’s a signal that Mark is returning from out there after two years being missing.

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Both Seth and Jen haven’t talked to each other since that night, and their reunion is awkward, as Seth tries to warn her that something bad is going to happen.  He’s correct, as Mark shows up naked in the woods, covered in some sort of white slime, and is happened upon by two hunters.  Of course something is going to be off about him, and he sets out on a killing spree across Maine, on his way to returning home.  But he doesn’t just kill his victims, he carts them off to his old shed, mouth rapes the corpses with some good old fashioned alien tentacle porn and some pod people action ensues.  And in one case “tentacle porn” is not a euphemism…  Of course Jen and Seth find themselves unwilling participants and they try to stop Mark and potentially even save the human race from invasion.  Along the way there’s lots of dead bodies and hurt feelings.

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Again, Joe Begos deserves credit, not only for doing everything on the film short of the craft service, but coming up with, perhaps not an entirely original idea for an alien invasion flick, but nonetheless an entertaining one.  I also like his attention to detail.  This is, surprisingly, a period piece (1989) and it looks like 1989 – sans mullets, however.  There’s not a late model car out of place (there’s even a late ’80s Corvette), and even all the phones and answering machines are old school.  It’s another level that the film didn’t need but is a neat feature.  Oh, and a personal note to Mr. Begos: don’t think I didn’t recognize that Stephen King reference as to where the first killings took place.  Fun little touch there.

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Josh Ethier is an editor by trade, and worked on a film I covered last year, Contracted.  His Pod-Mark is more than just some alien asshole walking around killing indiscriminately.  He has a goal in mind and the petty and emotional human part of him comes out at certain times, like when he confronts Seth, Jen and her fiance.  The film is a very economical 70-ish minutes.  I like the concept and the execution here.

Almost Human is from IFC Midnight and premieres on VOD and in theatres on February 21.

If you’ve got a film or project somewhere in the fringes that belongs in The Underground and needs some attention, hit me up at davidoliver64@netscape.net