Thursday, February 09, 2012

Only Human – review

Directed by: Ryan Maurer & Tyler Wirtanen

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

An indie production, I would say that Only Human could be termed as short but sweet. Story wise it is fairly simple, and the running time comes in at around 75 minutes but these two things conspire to make the film enjoyable. It is clear that directors Maurer and Wirtanen are aware of their limitations, as we shall see, and so don’t let the film become hamstringed by them.

It begins with a high school basketball game, with star player Luke (Tommy Jacobs) getting the winning hoop in the final seconds, much to the delight of his cheerleader girlfriend Molly (Stephanie Clark). Later, in the backseat of her car, she stops the heavy petting to tell him that she has been accepted into a college. We assume, given his reaction, that it is some distance away and it certainly hasn’t been mentioned before.

Luke and Vanessa
He goes home, steals a bottle of liquor and gets drunk. Meanwhile goth/rock gal Vanessa (Taylor Cloyes) is sat with her two emo friends (Kayla Roland & Anthony Octavius Corso). They see a drunk Luke staggering down the path. He starts talking to them but the emo kids bugger off, Vanessa staying with him. He talks of escaping the town and, once the bottle is finished, they start kissing and then end up screwing.

Vanessa arrives at the Prom
Vanessa believes that they made a connection and so plans on going to the prom. Luke actually nearly rings her but rings Molly instead. As Vanessa enters the prom hall she sees Prom king and queen, Luke and Molly, dancing. She turns and leaves. Now here Maurer and Wirtanen play with our expectations – the trope would lead us to expect the cool kids to Mock Vanessa and, potentially, her to go Carrie on their asses or at least threaten revenge. It doesn’t happen, she slopes off unnoticed and instead we cut forward to fall and Luke going to college.

cheating on webcam
It was here that things might have gone horribly wrong for me as a viewer when Luke meets his roomie Brody (Nathan Marcus Smith). The performance was nearly a film-killer for me, sorry but it really was. It was over-the-top and the character came off as badly acted and annoying – especially when compared to the short performance Taylor Cloyes had given up to that point, which was strong and worked well with Tommy Jacobs, producing a noticeable chemistry. The film concentrates on college life for a while and Luke, a veritable monk in a long distance webcam relationship – until Molly leaves the webcam on and he sees her with another man.

impressive rebound action
Come the next semester and Luke and Brody are invited to a party thrown by a sorority. The girl who did the inviting (Nicole Green) pulls a newly awakened (but still naïve) Luke into a room for a threesome. Luke and Brody are later invited to another, smaller, sorority party but as he gets there Luke sees Vanessa sat outside. Though angry with him at first, the spark is still there and they go off together. Vanessa is a new member of the sorority.

She arranges with Frat leader Alex (Michael Peake) for Luke to be pledged to the DTH frat. Brody says it stands for Death To Humans – an in-college-joke as the frat had a band with that name. If he pledges he will get to go on a joint trip with the frat and the sorority. Of course – given that we are looking at this on Taliesin Meets the Vampires – the fraternity and sorority members are vampires and the question is, will Luke succumb?

vampire kill
And I won’t say, but I will say that the film impressed with its simplicity and worked because of it. It concentrated on the Luke (and, when together, the Luke and Vanessa) character(s) for the main, built those characters and asked a simple question. There is a vampiric orgy of blood – as it were – in which Luke discovers the truth and what was clever about this scene was the effects and filters used to cover up the lack of budget.

vampire revealed
Mostly this worked (bar one shadow effect) and though I knew why they had chosen to film it this way, the choice left me impressed as it indicated a full awareness of their limitations. The soundtrack works really well and there are moments of impressive framing for the principle photography. Some of the sets (mainly the Prom and college registration) threaten to jar – narrowly escaping that – but again we are talking a restriction of budget and indie filmmaking and they did well with what they had.

Vanessa's new nature
Sometimes telling a simple story is all that is needed. In this case the filmmakers did not get themselves distracted with ideas that might have proven too clever. Rather they told their story, told is succinctly and made a nice little indie flick.

Above average, some performances much better than others but overall satisfying. 5.5 out of 10.

At the time of review there is no IMDb page.

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