Unhuman (2004) Movie Review

Science fiction is a dangerous genre. It takes a degree of thought and subtlety to pull off a good film. However, the genre is so ripe with ideas that any Tom, Dick and Harry who get their hands on a camera and a chunk of cash can subject an unwitting audience to their take on ‘Sci-Fi’ cinema. And so it is the case with “Unhuman,” the latest entry into the Science Fiction Hall of Shame courtesy of Thailand.

“Unhuman” starts with a group of friends meeting up at some temple ruins in the Thai countryside for an evening of stargazing and amateur archeological exploration. Things take a turn for the weird when a meteor crashes into the mountain side, and soon the kids get themselves entangled in unsavory business when they come across some deranged villagers, a group of sinister looking scientists, an elite commando squadron and a trio of mutilated bodies. What could it all mean? What’s going on in the deep, deep jungle of Thailand?

After watching “Unhuman”, I’m not really sure.

Thematically, “Unhuman” is all over the place. First it’s aliens, then it’s genetic mutation, then it’s black market organs, and then it’s black magic. Plot threads are picked up and dropped at will and major events are briefly scrutinized only to be abandoned a few minutes later. The filmmakers then attempt to make the movie profound by having the characters ruminate, albeit briefly, on the morality of genetic engineering, organ trafficking and sacrificing one life to save another. Heavy stuff, for sure, but “Unhuman” is simply too lightweight to tackle any of it.

If the flimsy and schizoid plot wasn’t bad enough, there’s the cheesy tacked on melodrama at the end, as one character makes the ultimate sacrifice to save another. Is that a tear welling up? Never mind, I just got something in my eye.

In many respects, the premise of “Unhuman” is almost identical to the Mark Dacascos direct-to-video flop “DNA.” If you’ve seen that movie, you pretty much know what happens in “Unhuman.” If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself lucky. The script is a throwaway and the characters are barely worth mentioning. The evil scientists are caricatures and the good guys are paper thin in the characterization department. Other characters appear and disappear with little rhyme or reason, and the script frequently changes gears with the appearance of yet another new character.

Even the monsters are inconsistent. Are they aliens or man-made mutations? Are they nocturnal or diurnal? Are they mortal or indestructible? According to the film’s logic, the answer is apparently all of the above. But then again, logic isn’t really “Unhuman’s” forte. Would an elite commando squad, who caught a bunch of college kids snooping around a quarantined site, turn around and issue them weapons and let them join in on their recon operations? Would said commando squad, who are obviously on a slash and burn mop up operation, cooperate with the local police chief? Or how about an evil scientist spontaneously stripping naked and walking into a stream to act as bait for the lurking monsters? Who knows, but at least we get some gratuitous nudity out of the last one.
Pretty soon you quit trying to make sense of “Unhuman” and just sit back in the hopes that the action will save the day. I’m sorry to say that “Unhuman” fails here as well. All the action sequences are filmed with an incoherence that has become a hallmark of the lower levels of the genre. Can’t choreograph a convincing action sequence? No problem. Just have the actors wave their weapons around and shake the camera vigorously. Instant excitement! Well not really, but you get the idea.

Not surprisingly, it’s virtually impossible to tell what’s going on when the action — or at least the film’s stab at action — starts. The result is a lot of out of focus green blurs and flashes of blood and gore. It’s all a bit amusing rather than thrilling, and the viewer’s greatest dilemma will be deciding which was funnier — the commandos firing their machine guns willy-nilly into the air to hit a land-based target, or the make-up effects for the monsters. At least the body count is high and the Foley artists definitely earned their paychecks.

“Unhuman” is, without a doubt, a craptacular movie. There’s almost nothing positive about it, with the exception of the naked scientist chick, which every monster movie should have at least one of. The film looks very much like one of those Sci-Fi Channel original production monster movies, and unfortunately it’s about as “good”.

Toranong Sricher (director)
CAST: Sira Pathrat, Cholada Mekratree, Surachai Saengagas, Narawan Niruthisai, Suthita Ketanon, Phupan Khanthap, Natcha Chongsuwan, Phethak Sanwat, Kowit Wadthanakun, Phimphan Buronphim

Buy Unhuman on DVD