One could describe Unhuman as a new horror comedy from Blumhouse Television and EPIX, directed by Marcus Dunstan, but there is no simplification that could aptly describe this bizarre, wonderful, genre mashup which Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton have created.
The first thing one needs to know about this movie is that your expectations are wrong. It doesn’t matter what you thought based off of the trailer, or what the earlier stages of the film lead you to believe. If you know the Saw franchise, you know how infamous those films are for their face-melting twists.
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Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton wrote the screenplays for Saw IV-VII. For perspective, that’s almost half of one of the greatest mystery horror franchises of all time. Prior to watching the film, I realized this connective tissue between Unhuman and the beloved legend of Saw. But try as I might, I wasn’t able to pick apart the mystery before the big reveal, in fact, my speculation wasn’t anywhere close.
And let me tell you, when the twist is revealed, it hits with almost the same magic that they brought to Saw for years, across multiple installments. These gentlemen just know how to distort expectations, to play on the false assumptions of the audience, and to finally pull the rug out from under us with such grace and wonder that we thank them for always staying ten steps ahead.
UNHUMAN: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HIGH SCHOOLERS DECIDE THE SAW IS FAMILY?
If it seems like I’m leaning a bit hard into the Saw comparisons here, it’s by design. In many ways, Unhuman is a Saw movie. No, I don’t believe that this film takes place in the same universe as Spiral, Jigsaw and the lot, but underneath the surface, at it’s thematic core, this film is a John Kramer narrative.
For those unfamiliar with the work of John Kramer, otherwise known as Jigsaw, he was something of a mad genius, with a surprisingly noble intention. Of course, the road to hell is paved with those, so his goal was to torture his victims into an appreciation of life itself. Jigsaw sought to expose corruption and illuminate the resilience and endurance of the human soul through his twisted games, which always featured elaborate traps and intense pre-planning.
The most recent film in the franchise, Spiral, took the methods of John Kramer and applied them directly to a singular institution, specifically the local police department. Saw VI followed a similar method, putting the insurance industry on bloody display. Unhuman follows in the footsteps of that franchise, applying the Kramer technique (patent pending) to the most unexpected of places. High School.
Of course, the truth behind this one-of-a-kind zombie movie isn’t as simple or as broad as merely “high school”, but to say more would be to diminish your potential enjoyment of Unhuman. Understanding that I am dropping some serious bread crumbs here in this very review, I implore you to avoid spoilers for this movie at all costs.
Even if you think it’s not for you, I’d suggest you watch Pretty In Pink, followed by some Spiral, and ask yourself if their fusion seems like a winning combo. I would say there’s no wrong answer to that question, but if your answer turns out to be “no”, there’s not much I can do for you. Maybe you could try and have better taste?
The creative team are the true superstars of Unhuman, including the editors. They work some comic-booky paneling into the film, and they never shy away from cinematic experimentation. Their fresh takes and adventurous spirit resulted in some really fun and unforgettable montages. But as amazing as the talent behind the camera was, we can’t forget about the cast.
UNHUMAN: REDEMPTION FOR BRIANNE TJU AS A SCREAM QUEEN
Brianne Tju leads the film as “Ever”, a shy teen who may just find herself along the gorey path. Her role in the extraordinarily disappointing I Know What You Did Last Summer TV series last year made me wary of her role here, but I’m pleased to say that I was almost completely wrong for doubting her. Aside from the occasional mega-cringey scene with her mom or best friend (played by Ali Gallo), her performance was consistently impressive, even rising above the scripted dialogue at times.
Another standout actor of Unhuman is Drew Scheid, who horror fans will recognize from Halloween 2018 and my Titans teammates may remember as “Faux Hawk”, Hank’s megafan who briefly donned his supersuit. This is the third time I’ve watched Scheid perform, and by god, he is three for three. Somebody get this man a leading role!
Peter Giles plays a much meatier role as the PE teacher leading the group of students on a field trip than the trailer might suggest. He was very easy to hate. Truly, that’s one thing that Melton and Dusntan excel at-writing characters that fans love to hate.
Unhuman is a zombie movie, a coming-of-age movie, a satire, and so much more. This shocking saga of suspense, subterfuge and slippery slopes may not be quite perfect, but it’s one hell of a movie that stands on a plateau all its own.
UNHUMAN OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
“The dead will have this club for breakfast. Blumhouse Television and EPIX bring you the story of a high school field trip gone bloody awry. Seven misfit students must band together against a growing gang of unhuman savages. The group’s trust in each other is tested to the limit in a brutal, horrifying fight to survive and they must take down the murderous zombie-creatures… before they kill each other first.”
What did you think of Unhuman? Is my sarcasm reading in this digital medium? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media!
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