“The Human Race” is one of those “don’t get too attached to anybody” horror pictures, a lower-than-low budget variation of every race/chase/pick’em off, one-by-one horror tale since Edgar Allan Poe invented the genre and Agatha Christie perfected it.
But for a no-budget splatter film, it has ambition and wit, and writer-director Paul Hough shows promise.
We meet a broad assortment of people — the girl diagnosed with cancer (Brianna Lauren Jackson), the two combat vets from the Afghan War (Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Eddie McGee), the deaf couple (Trista Robinson, T. Arthur Cottam) — just random folks having sometimes random, sometimes exceptional days. Eddie (McGee), for instance, returned from the war with just one leg, and he crawls out of the bed of his latest sexual conquest at the behest of his Army buddy, Justin (McCarthy-Boyington). Justin Eddie as an inspirational speaker at the disabled kids’ school where Justin teaches.
Then a flash of light. Everybody — even the deaf folks, hears a voice.
“The House, the School and The Prison are ‘safe.’ Stay on the path, or you die. Follow the arrows, or you die… Race, or die.”
Next thing they all know, they’re gathered on a sidewalk that connects a house, a school and a prison. And they’re off, some sprinting, some elbowing others aside, some stumbling into the grass whereupon their heads promptly explode.
“The Human Race” follows this assembly of 80 or so people, all hearing a voice that calls out their shrinking ranks as some die a careless death and others are ruthlessly dispatched in this win-or-die footrace — “44, 43, 42…”
It’s not fair. Eddie has one leg, and crutches. An aged ex-Marine has a walker. One woman is pregnant, and two small children are caught up in the field, too. One runners figures to go all out to spring and lap the other competitors, killing them all. And there are murderous thugs and snickering sociopaths in their midst, who have the rest of the runners at a disadvantage.
So the priest (B. Anthony Cohen) who has an explanation for “What is HAPPENING to us?” only THINKS he has the answer.
“It’s Purgatory.” Since these deaths are undeserving and the righteous don’t have a prayer, that doesn’t wash, Padre. Take care that your own head doesn’t explode.
Deconstructing this, one would guess that Hough had access to some specific sets and a few actor friends with sign language skills or a single leg (McGee doesn’t have to fake that). Hough built a movie out of those ingredients.
There are nicely-staged one-legged-man fight scenes and sign language debates.
“The only thing I hear is DEATH!”
And there are effects that hint at this version of the “fight to the death” scenario’s origins. Think William Shatner, shirtless.
It’s not art. But “The Human Race” does manage to take a worn out formula and nonsense story and finds a few novel touches, a little humor and hints of pathos in between the exploding heads.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with bloody assaults, sexual violence, profanity
Cast: Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Eddie McGee, Trista Robinson, Brianna Lauren Jackson
Credits: Written and directed Paul Hough. An XLRator Media release.
Running time: 1:27
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