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  Humains Primeval terror
Year: 2009
Director: Jacques-Olivier Molon, Pierre-Olivier Thevenin
Stars: Lorànt Deutsch, Sara Forestier, Dominique Pinon, Manon Tournier, Élise Otzenberger, Philippe Nahon, Christian Kmiotek, Mark Olinger, Marie-Paule von Roesgen, Catherine Robert, Jacques Michel, Monsieur Brantschen, René-Joseph Zurkinden, Marie Brantschen
Genre: Horror, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Anthropologist Professor Schneider (Philippe Nahon), his clumsy son Thomas (Lorànt Deutsch) and prized protégé Nadia (Sara Forestier) venture into a remote region in the Swiss Alps to investigate a scientific discovery regarding the evolution of mankind. En route, the team lend a helping hand to a family of holidaymakers including macho gym teacher Gildas (Dominique Pinon), his girlfriend Patricia (Élise Otzenberger) and teenage daughter Elodie (Manon Tournier), but are stranded when their car is run off the road. Prof. Schneider dies instantly, but his body vanishes in the night. The survivors find themselves on the run from mysterious assailants. Gildas reckons they are the same thugs that accosted his family at the gas station, but their inhuman roars suggest something else…

French cinema has belatedly discovered the backwoods massacre movie spawned on the American grindhouse circuit more than thirty years ago. Witness Haute Tension (2003), Martyrs (2008), High Lane (2009) and now Humains, sort of a Gallic take on The Hills Have Eyes (1977), albeit just three years after Alexandre Aja remade the iconic American horror film. Like High Lane, the film plays to lovers of extreme outdoor sports and wrings as much tension from characters crossing the raging rapids as being chased by feral killers. Whereas Dario Argento wove an eerie atmosphere around the idyllic Alps in Phenomena (1985), co-directors Jacques-Olivier Molon and Pierre-Olivier Thevenin are not quite as skilful at subverting the Swiss surroundings. That said, the dimly lit caverns tap primal fears as a suitably nightmarish setting.

Molon and Thevenin have a flashy style heavily derived from modern Hollywood horror: frantic editing, cheesy false shocks and one-dimensional characters. Everything occurs suddenly without creeping suspense and no time for the terror to seep in. The plot gets caught up in pseudo-scientific theorising about their pursuers being the missing link (“We are rewriting anthropology!”), until young Elodie is caught by a bunch of rather silly, snarling cavemen. Unlike Wes Craven, the filmmakers make next to nothing out of this clash between savagery and civilisation, even after Gildas (a failed alpha male trying to prove himself) retaliates by kidnapping a young cave boy.

Disappointingly, although Nadia is initially established as clever and resourceful, she degenerates into a snivelling wreck for no clear reason other than to allow the hitherto whiny and idiotic Thomas a chance to show some belated backbone. Rather similar to the cry-baby hero Robert Houston played in The Hills Have Eyes. Thomas discovers the cave people want Nadia and Elodie as breeding stock, so pretends to hold the girls at knifepoint to cover their escape. Whereupon the plot throws a few fairly decent shock twists regarding who is responsible for keeping the cavemen a secret. Together with an ending that proves weirdly poetic and touching. If only the rest of the film had lived up to it.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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