Film Review: “Useless Humans” Falls Short of Being a Potentially Original Sci-fi Comedy
Written by: Adam Vaughn | July 14th, 2020
Useless Humans (Stephen Ohl, 2020) 1 out of 4 stars.
Unfortunately for first-time feature-director Stephen Ohl, Useless Humans plays as a confused movie, trying very much to mirror the ever-popular “comedy with dramatic undertone” film that is popular in today’s society. However, the film misses the mark on delivering the comedic timing, surprising moments, and any sense of believability that we as a viewer are being whisked into a “science-fiction world.” It plays as a student project trying to make the class laugh (and only the class), with what seems like a lot of inside jokes that do not seem as if they were tested on a target audience.
Ohl tells the story of a group of friends celebrating a birthday gone horribly wrong, thanks to the arrival of an alien invader. The film spends a tremendous amount of its exposition describing the relationship between four lifelong friends and how life has started to bring them apart over the years. But a weekend at a cabin in the woods becomes a battle for mankind against an extraterrestrial with mal-intent.
As an avid science-fiction enthusiast, I can clearly see inspiration from movies such as Paul and This Is the End, and possibly every filmmakers’ attempt at “comedy with some adventure.” However, Useless Humans does not surprise in its plot and does not make the viewer terrified or thrilled with its science-fiction elements. When that fails, one’s only hope as the writer and/or director is to blow the audience away with hysterical moments that warm the heart and make us forget about the campiness of the material. It’s too bad, then, that this film has an awkward sense of timing with its more uncomfortable jokes for a good two-thirds of the movie. None of the acting from the four main characters makes the film believable, and comes across as trying to make too much fun of the source material while following cookie-cutter plot points from films of the past. The dialogue from start to finish reads unnatural, with too much “cymbal crash” comedy after each moment, without the humor or surprise that good comedy usually has.
Towards the end of the film, as humans and aliens collide, Ohl finally gathers enough material to create a compelling and dynamic trailer for the film (I fondly recognized the music-video-esque moments from the teaser). However, as a whole, the film took too long to get to the meat of the story, and once it was there, it did not deliver any new concepts or memorable comedic moments. While I wholeheartedly support the visual concept of the film (and have huge respect for practically executed science-fiction elements in an ever evolving CGI world), this film, to me, is in major need of script revisions, with a few more drafts needed to get the jokes down right. As a B-movie, the film has a ton of potential to be a comedy favorite, but as it is, it falls short of impressing most moviegoers.