Unhuman fancies itself a cross between The Breakfast Club and Night of the Living Dead. A group of high school students board a bus for a field trip. Everyone in the class fits into a familiar clique. There's a teen queen, a jock, an overweight outcast, and so on. And then there's Randall (Benjamin Wadsworth), a frequent bullying victim with an undercurrent of anger. Each of these kids conveniently surrenders their cell phone to teacher Mr. Lorenzo (Peter Giles) as they step inside. Best friends Ever (Brianne Tju) and Tamra (Ali Gallo) sit together, taking in the annoying behaviors of their peers.
Once on the road, the bus hits something, causing it to crash in a remote area. An alert comes over the vehicle's radio, saying that some sort of chemical attack has taken place. That seems plausible after zombie-like creatures begin charging the bus. A few of the kids don't get out, but several do, and they hole up inside a nearby abandoned building, trying to find a way to survive the relentless attack.
That half of Unhuman is generally okay. There are funny lines of dialogue, as the characters often rely on sarcasm as a coping mechanism. It's also amusing to see which of them unexpectedly cower in the face of danger and which ones display a surprising bravery. Well-cast actors help the cause, with most of them able to vividly establish the personalities of the teens they're portraying. For a while, it seems like the movie will be a lot of fun.
But then the thing happens that I can't reveal. Unhuman backs its story up a bit to provide the origin of the zombie people. That choice proves unsuccessful. Writer Patrick Melton and co-writer/director Marcus Dunstan have a perfectly valid theme they want to tackle. However, rewinding to explain it all completely shatters any tension the movie is trying to build. A picture like this relies on momentum. When you pause that momentum for a great big exposition dump that goes on for eight or ten minutes, there's no way to recover.
By the time the plot gets back to the present, it's too late. We're left with endless moments of dull carnage, often shot in close-up that makes it difficult to see what's happening. Rapid-fire editing of this bloodshed is used to suggest a hip “style” when it really only distracts. Unhuman seems to lose confidence in its own concept. The notion of disparate teens coming together in a moment of crisis yields to generic gore and a climactic confrontation that rips off the villain's comeuppance in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.
Melton and Dunstan were really onto something with Unhuman's core premise. They just lost sight of the Breakfast Club element and leaned too hard on the Living Dead stuff.
out of four
Unhuman is unrated, but contains strong language and graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.