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Its punning title is but one of the clever aspects of Paul Hough’s efficient, if derivative, horror thriller about 80 random people forced to literally run for their lives by a mysterious alien force. Compensating for its less than convincing special effects with some intriguing plot twists and bracingly nihilistic situations, The Human Race is a reasonably compelling low-budget genre item that should garner attention on home video formats.
Reminiscent of myriad influences including The Twilight Zone, The Hunger Games, Battle Royale and countless others, the film sets up its bleak premise with admirable efficiency. The contestants in its nasty game are transferred by a mysterious light emanating from the sky to a mysterious locale where they are given such instructions as “Step on the grass and you die,” “If you are lapped twice you will die” and “Race or die.” That the game’s creators mean business becomes readily apparent when one hapless contestant steps on the grass only to have her head promptly explode.
Among the various characters to whom we’re briefly introduced before the main action begins is a young woman who’s just been informed that she is now cancer-free; a deaf-mute couple who find themselves miraculously able to hear the malevolent instructions provided by an unseen voice; a priest whose explanation for the bizarre events is that they’re in Purgatory; an elderly ex-Marine who has to use a walker; a pregnant woman; and a one-legged Afghan War vet (played by the charismatic Eddie McGee, who doesn’t let his real-life amputee condition prevent him from engaging in some badass action moves, especially in a ingeniously staged fight sequence towards the end).
Despite the essentially formulaic nature of the proceedings, the film does boast some nasty twists that prove galvanizing, whether it’s the quick dispatching of several sympathetic characters or the in-depth portrayal of the deaf couple whose relationship takes a decidedly dark turn under duress: It’s easy to imagine the writer/director cackling with demented glee as he planned his characters’ grisly fates. He also indulges in several effective stylistic devices, from the use of split-screen to onscreen graphics providing the precise figures of the ever-increasing body count.
Production: Paul Hough Entertainment
Cast: Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Eddie McGee, Trista Robinson, T. Arthur Cottam, Fred Coury, Richard Gale
Director/screenwriter/editor: Paul Hough
Producers: Paul Hough, Bryan Coyne
Executive producers: Jamie Hough, John Hough, Regina McGee
Director of photography: Matt Fore
Composer: Marinho Nobre
No rating, 87 minutes
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