When writer/director Marcus Dunstan teams up with co-writer Patrick Melton, you can expect a violent and often bloody time. Look to The Collector, The Collection, Feast, Into the Dark’s “Pilgrim,” or a few Saw sequels as examples. Their latest, Unhuman, continues their energetic style, applying their savage sense of humor and bloodletting to a John Hughes-style high school scenario. It results in an entertaining twist to the familiar pangs of navigating the adolescent social hierarchy.
Listless teen Ever (Brianne Tju) feels out of place lately, struggling with fitting in and her identity. Especially compared to her more extroverted and confident best friend Tamra (Ali Gallo). Ever’s feelings of displacement are further tested when a school field trip is derailed by a detour that leaves the bus full of students stranded in the woods amidst a bizarre outbreak. The high school clique boundaries get blurred, and relationships are tested when the survivors are forced to band together to survive.
Dunstan and Melton capture a retro feel with their The Breakfast Club setup. The archetypical high school personalities get quickly introduced, from the mean girl cheerleader (Lo Graham), bullying jock (Uriah Shelton), outcast Randall (Benajmin Wadsworth), and the nerdy Steven (Drew Scheid). Complete, of course, with the profoundly out-of-touch teacher (Peter Giles). Dunstan wastes little time establishing the ruthless dynamics between them before plunging them deep into the woods with the murderous infected. It presents a breezy, lighthearted horror comedy with a few puerile jokes and a gruesome body count, evocative of ’80s horror.
Dunstan’s sense of style, bloodletting, and nonstop energy keep an otherwise familiar formula entertaining. Tju establishes herself as a leading lady and imbues rooting interest with Ever’s quiet moral fortitude and vulnerabilities. No small task considering she bears all the cliched hallmarks of a Final Girl.
There’s more than meets the eye to this outbreak, though, and the back half evolves an outbreak narrative into something else entirely. While Unhuman goes for broke in high octane thrills, the third act reveals highlights a few missteps in character arcs. Central relationships aren’t developed enough to earn their emotional conclusions, rendering them contrived or hollow. Not all the humor or good cheer moments land, and an occasional punchline is more likely to elicit a groan rather than a laugh. Unhuman once again demonstrates the hells of being a teen attending high school without ever really adding anything new to the conversation.
Then again, it’s not exactly trying to attempt any depth. Dunstan simply wants to deliver a slice of escapist horror with a warped sense of humor. Dunstan may have attempted to channel John Hughes for his high school horror-comedy, but his sensibilities and delightful penchant for gory violence land it closer to James Gunn’s Lollipop Chainsaw. That’s good news for fans of irreverent, splatstick humor. There’s not a lot of narrative or thematic meat on Unhuman‘s bones, but it’s a fun romp all the same. Dunstan may veer a little too far into silliness in places, but it’s clear he’s having a blast. And that sense of fun tends to be quite infectious.
Unhuman will be available on Digital June 3, 2022.
The post ‘Unhuman’ Review – Irreverent Splatstick Horror-Comedy Emphasizes Hells of Adolescence appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.