From: Silver Screen

‘The Humans’ mashes horror and home life

‘The Humans’ mashes horror and home life
(L to R) June Squibb as “Momo,” Amy Schumer as “Aimee,” Jayne Houdyshell as “Dierdre,” Steven Yuen as “Richard,” Beanie Feldstein as “Brigid” and Richard Jenkins as “Erik” in “The Humans.”

Not many films are able to weave the discomfort of an awkward family dinner with the disturbingness of traditional jump-scare horror. But in “The Humans,” the newest film distributed by A24, these two cinema clichés are seamlessly blended to create an unpredictable and unsettling experience. 

The film follows the multi-generational family of Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) as they arrive in Manhattan to have dinner with her and her boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun) in the couple’s new, rather run-down apartment. Based on director and screenwriter Stephen Karam’s Broadway play of the same name, the film poignantly depicts the intricacies of family dynamics and the challenges that come with one’s fears becoming reality. 

In true New York style, the group struggles to deal with the challenges of cockroaches and noisy neighbors. However, in “The Humans,” these everyday nuisances become terrifying snaps that align with heightening emotional tension. It’s easy for these scenes to make the movie feel disjointed, though the consistency of their appearance and association with important plot points makes them feel less out of place. 

Brigid’s father, Erik (Richard Jenkins), is a compassionate and concerned man who spends the film inspecting his daughter’s questionable living space and imposing his opinions on others. Brigid’s mother, Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell), is a religious woman who struggles to come to terms with her daughters’ faltering faith. And the pair — whose relationship never seems conventional — prove to be overwhelming to both of their children. 

Along with the previously mentioned players, the cast features Amy Schumer (Aimee, Brigid’s sister), and June Squibb (Momo, Brigid’s grandmother). The ensemble nature of the scripting and cinematography allows for each of the performers to shine, though Feldstein, Yeun and Jenkins tend to dominate the spotlight. 

As for the script, it reads rather obvious that the story’s roots are founded in theater. Confessional scenes between different family members expose the reality of human flaw and the challenges that come with confronting one’s own shortcomings and unexpected failures. It doesn’t feel didactic, though a pointed message is clearly situated under the cool-toned surface. 

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The cinematography relies on darkness and vague shots through doorways that don’t necessarily focus on the primary speaker or on any one subject in particular. In one scene of celebration, the camera brings attention to a stray feather. The choice makes even the happiest of scenes seem aggressively ominous. 

Though the film is paced well, it is easy for it to feel a bit backended when it comes to its plot. Many of the characters’ greatest mistakes are revealed or made during the last twenty minutes, making the beginning feel a bit weaker and less functional.

With that being said, Momo’s email to the family may be one of the strongest scenes to come out of cinema in a while, and the silent finale is a brilliant, if not somewhat empty, ending. It could be easy to feel frustrated at the lack of conclusion. Perhaps that is precisely the reason why this movie could have had no other ending. 

“The Humans,” like its characters, is not perfect. But for a rather short, fast-paced look into the reunion of a disconnected family, it does well to remind that connection can wield more power than difference. 

“The Humans” was released in theaters and on Showtime on Nov. 24.

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