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by Jack Sommersby

"A Goofy Delight"
4 stars

Rather than just relying on a catchy story premise to carry the day, the material here is a cut or two above the norm.

During the enjoyable seventy-two-minute sci-fi/horror comedy Inhumanwhich! I thought back to what the late film critic Pauline Kael wrote in her review of the 1986 thriller F/X. Kael, never a fan of John Wayne, praised Brian Dennehy’s blusterous performance, remarking that Dennehy was the kind of actor Wayne would’ve been had he been a genuine actor. So it’s absolutely no knock on co-producer/writer/director David Cornelius when I aver that with his Inhumanwhich!, his feature-film debut, he demonstrates he’s the kind of director schlockmeister Edward D. Wood would've been had he been a genuine director. Cornelius, a fine film critic in his own right, based out of Cincinnati, has, like Wood had, a quintessential love of cinema, but, unlike Wood, he has the talent and control so outlandishly goofy material never veers off into amateurish cheesiness. No small feat, this. With an ultra-minuscule budget of a mere two-thousand dollars, Inhumanwhich!, which was photographed through a black-and-white filter and shot on digital video, has at its considerable disposal the kind of technology Wood never would’ve dreamt of but certainly would’ve prayed to the heavens for (not that his works would’ve been all that much better, mind you, since he innately lacked even an elementary film sense for what would and would not suitably play). What exactly is an “inhumanwich,” pray tell? Well, would you believe quite the monstrous miasma of human being, radioactivity, and, well, uh, a heaping helping of Sloppy Joe? The human in question is an astronaut piloting a capsule whose computer winds up getting destroyed by a radioactive meteor shower, which winds up fusing him with what his caring wife packed him for lunch; after crash-landing on Earth, in a wooded area near the Dayton, Ohio-based National Space Command Center that’s been tracking the capsule, the mutated astronaut comes into contact with its first human prey (a necking teenage couple), thus hungrily absorbing them until they’re nothing but picked-clean skeletons. The way the Center’s leading astronomer tells it (amusingly, he admits, “Now, I’m no rocket scientist…”; added to which, he uses an old-fashioned protractor and slide ruler for all intents and purposes), the mutant has a rapturous appetite, and with each and every victim it exponentially grows larger and larger, leading to a doomsday scenario that if it manages to reach the state’s larger cities, it’s only a matter of weeks before it manages to (a la John Carpenter’s The Thing) overtake the entire country and eventually the whole world.

Uncommon of this particular subgenre, the best moments of Inhumanwhich! actually come early on in the scenes in the Command Center where verbiage rather than sensationalism is emphasized. Cornelius has a penchant for goofily understated dialogue, and the timing of these scenes is so assured it would’ve been perfectly satiable if the entire film had taken place there. The president of the United States (who looks an awful lot like a younger version of the Ohio governor John Kasich: he comes off as laughably unformed, as if not so much as an iota of it-matters human experience has permeated through his epidermis) is taking an unannounced tour of the place, and this mediocre milquetoast, who would easily mistake NASA for NASCAR, is most impressed with seeing via video feed the astronaut in the Argo 1 capsule playing catch with himself with a baseball; and the humorous interaction among the staff cannily reminds one of the deadpan wit in the Lloyd Bridges/Robert Stack air-traffic-control scenes in 1980’s classic Airplane!, which were probably the inspiration behind them. Inhumanwhich!, despite its bares-bones production values, is exceedingly good-looking, and while I’ve been told black-and-white is a good way in this day and age to disguise a low budget, the props and set design and composition show that the film has been blessed with plenty of adept hands behind the camera. The ever-enveloping monster is (considering the budget restraints) convincingly organic, and Cornelius succeeds in not just staging the killings with aplomb but keeping the tone on a comedy-chiller level so the violence (which there is very little of) never clashes with the comedic aspects. Oh, there are some quibbles. The film errs in introducing the character of the machismo-fueled, cigar-chomping General Graham, who takes jurisdiction over the matter, and is a general pain throughout. Obviously, Cornelius is satirizing the long-standing stereotype this caricature has been plaguing Movieland for eons, but because the actor lacks the bravado and stylization, and the staging is rather square, lines like “Let’s go bag us a flesh-eating mutant!” just don’t have the aplomb they should and fall as flat as pancakes dropped off the Sears Tower. There’s an extended public-park sequence that starts out well but, once the monster starts wreaking havoc on the picnickers, is devoid of the kind of orgiastic payoff that, say, Lewis Teague marvelously brought off in the wedding-at-the-estate sequence in his outstanding Alligator, though this can probably be attributed more to the limitations of budget rather than lack of creative conception. No, Inhumanwich! doesn’t quite have the merits of a cult classic, but it constantly hovers over the parameters of one, and that’s more than enough in rendering it a worthwhile curio.

Well worth catching if you're tired of run-of-the-mill productions that seem phoned in and are devoid of any artistic merit.

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originally posted: 04/10/17 08:32:14
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  15-Dec-2016 (R)



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