September 30, 2013

The Human Race (Paul Hough, 2013)


The Human Race is an atypical survival horror film containing some sci-fi elements and archetypal characters in inventive genre-bending situations. Abducted from the same stretch of street in Los Angeles, 60+ strangers must run through an elaborate course and follow their unknown captors' instructions to stay alive.

As a small budget independent horror film, The Human Race reminded me of Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968) in two respects: the way it restricts space, leaving a claustrophobic impression, the feeling of being trapped with nowhere to escape to, an impression conveyed both by the situation and by the characters' immediate environment; the way it uses this space restriction to push characters to their extremes, whether good or bad, and forces them to interact as an exploration of these personalities yes, but also as a broader discourse on human nature and our eternal push towards good and altruism or else evil and egocentrism.

The Human Race does just that, pitting the more virtuous characters against the morally-challenged ones. Within the latter respect, the film somewhat explores the psychological implications of such a huit-clos, but its discourse is elsewhere, mostly in the deterministic nature of the film's unfolding. In that regard, it's akin to Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000), specifically in the way the most talented don't necessarily win out in the end but that all its outcomes are subject to the randomness of the universe. In the end, the winner isn't the most virtuous or the strongest and most skilled, but he will seem to be the one with the most will and determination. The final scene of The Human Race  setting up an epic fight with no denouement, a very popular device, raises here more questions than the filmmaker is willing to answer, making you wish this story could go on unfolding, unraveling its many secrets and mysteries and engaging the spectator beyond the film's viewing.

Armed with a killer concept (pun intended), The Human Race is more Darwinian than philosophical. Although it isn't for everyone (gore oblige), it has all the makings of a cult hit and the energy and smarts of a horror classic.

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NFO: The Human Race (IMDB)