When you hear that there is a film that’s The Breakfast Club meets zombies, it’s an immediate investment. The idea is a match made in chaos. Who better to deliver audiences said chaos than writer/director Marcus Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton? Known for their penchant for blood, guts, and their particular brand of humor, they have come to deliver their latest horror project, UNHUMAN. From the very beginning, with an eyebrow-raising mention of an Afterschool Special, to the very end with its end credits scene, viewers are taken on an entertaining ride, despite its bumps.
UNHUMAN establishes the dynamics and personalities of some of its core characters before the madness begins. Audiences are introduced to Ever (Brianne Tju), who is struggling to figure out who she is as a person. With high school reinforcing our social need to be in easily identifiable categories, her struggles are relatable, though a bit hard to buy into given Tju’s less convincing performance. While Ever is stuck in a quiet stasis, her best friend (albeit the easily forgettable) Tamra (Ali Gallo) is one of the cool kids and has found her tribe. Ever struggles with this fact as well, which all becomes heightened when their school field trip takes a left turn or, well, a splat.
As shenanigans hit the bus roof, our core group of characters bands together to figure out how best to survive the scenario. This presents us with our high school stereotype characters: the cheerleader (Lo Graham), the jock (Uriah Shelton), the nerd (Drew Scheid), and the outcast (Benjamin Wadsworth), with some interesting filler characters in the mix. While some of the characters suffer from being less fleshed out than others, viewers get a chance to learn more about them. There is more to see beyond the surface and, in high periods of stress, it’s all the easier to see them for who they really are. Here is where we can see how well Dunstan and Melton know how to take advantage of the audience’s expectations.
As a whole, UNHUMAN dives into the familiar. It hits those well-established beats that will remind of those ’80s high school coming-of-age classics. Right down to the dialogue reading as more grown-up than hitting current youngin’ vernacular. Kids these days and all that jazz. That said, there’s enough delicious horror fun infused into the script that keeps it fresh. By the halfway point, the story itself takes a turn, with the final act serving up a huge heaping mass of chaos that had me giggling from the ridiculousness. While cleverly silly, the film still possesses a dash of seriousness with its thorough line addressing the topic of bullying and its impact.
One of the things that the world is in dire need of is silliness. UNHUMAN has it in spades, making it a welcome form of escape. While the gore elements are paired down when taking into account Dunstan’s and Melton’s previous projects, there’s enough blood to go around for horror fans. In general, the film would be a good gateway horror film for newbs to the genre. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, has plenty of action, and addresses the important topic of bullying as well as identity. If you can look past its writing flaws and a couple of the performances, it makes for a great escape.
UNHUMAN will be available for digital purchase on June 3, 2022, from Paramount Home Entertainment.
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