The Human Race (2013) – By Kirsten Walsh

“In THE HUMAN RACE a group of 80 people are ripped out of their daily lives and all re-appear in an undisclosed location. These people are from all walks of life: young and old, athletic and disabled, white-collared and homeless. The rules to a race boom in their heads, in their own voice and language, laying out what will become a horrific race of terror: ‘If you are lapped twice, you die. If you step off the path, you die. If you touch the grass, you will die. Race… or die.’”

Full of haunting vignettes geared to tug at the heartstrings, “The Human Race” harkens to unique films, but stands alone as something far more significant. Grouping 80 people together in what looks like a deserted city, the rules are set forth, and the competition begins. Similar to “Battle Royale” or “The Hunger Games”, only one survivor is allowed, and there is a lot of bloodshed in order to get to that final mark.

The cast was extraordinary, from the first girl (referred to only as Veronica) to of course the poster boy, Eddie, a one legged war vet who uses his “disadvantage” to his advantage. The audience primarily follows Eddie, his friend Justin, a deaf girl (Red Shorts), and a deaf guy as they struggle together to help other as they travel on the path laid out for them. With an ensemble cast, they are able to pull off a mix of emotions in small segments of time, and pull the audience alongside on a roller coaster as characters struggle for existence.

The cinematography is disorienting and poignant, keeping on mostly mids and closeups, giving the audience a similar feeling to what they characters are feeling- lost, confused, disoriented. No explanation is given to why the characters are there, and the production design plays into all the scheme of it all. All of the element from the production angle seem to flow very well together, from the music to the design to the sound design. At certain points, the flow shifts and the music seems to overshadow the dialogue, but it just adds to the tension and doesn’t detract from the film.

In researching the film and director Paul Hough’s method of filmmaking, it was intriguing to learn that this film was made in a unique fashion, shooting over a period of four years for a few days at a time until the film was complete. Considering the production value and the locations that are used along with the effects, this is a remarkable feat, and inspiring to all independent filmmakers out there. While this film does use several digital effects to highlight the rule breaking, the practical deaths- mostly caused by person on person crime and not caused by the “outer sources” that brought everyone together- are excellent.

This film does highlight the depravity and tragic qualities that exist in human kind. After the initial fear sets in of the race itself and automatically the weak are eliminated, there is nothing left but for those still competing to add an edge to themselves by killing those around them. This depravity was explored in the 80’s film “The Running Man”, but not so much in “The Hunger Games” (which is mostly due to the audience it was geared for in my opinion). Exploring these themes are disturbing to most people, and one of the reasons why this film stands out. It takes no shame in having some of the characters kill children, pregnant women, and the geriatrics, and showcases what some people are willing to do to survive. Of course, the question is put on the viewer “what would you do in this situation?”, and many people find themselves too scared to ask themselves that question. This is also a theme strongly explored in the original “Saw” film, as a victim is required to reach into another victim’s stomach in order to pull the key out to unlock themselves. The use of all walks of life and disability heightens the extreme emotional pull this film has and does a great job.

This film definitely has a strong beginning and middle, but the ending is one of those endings that makes a viewer go, “What the hell!?”. And ending that is not expected at all, and has nothing to do with the rest of the film, and adds a whole new vision to the film.

Would I watch this film again? While I think it is a great film and does a great job telling the script, this is a very emotionally charged film, and not one I would put myself through again.

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