by Tori Hanes
Are you one of those unfortunate movie-goers cursed with the gift of common sense? Do you find yourself balling your fists until your palms bleed, cheeks flushed, screaming at your screen: “why don’t you just LEAVE, dammit!” If so, Human Resources may not be the most enjoyable viewing experience for you.
An important caveat to this conversation is the semi-spectacular circumstances surrounding the film’s creation: first-time director Braden Swope wrote and presumably directed this film at the ripe age of 19. When I – and perhaps you – conjure the hazy memories of those formative years, the image of writing, directing, and editing a feature film doesn’t ring familiar. And the competence with which the feature is shot and edited is reason for praise. Kudos given where kudos are due.
Unfortunately, those may be the only kudos Human Resources receives in this review. Almost all the film’s shortcomings can be boiled to one issue: jagged, uneven exploration of tone. Demonic happenings in a creepy family hardware store headed by a clueless coward (Hugh McCrae Jr. playing protagonist Sam Coleman) – this plot synopsis sounds like a lobbed softball ready to orbit into a campy homerun. Sadly, the film is never able to reach that altitude. Instead, it dances ever so delicately around camp’s sharp edges, cutting itself while attempting entry.
Without a playful side, the story begins to disintegrate into sickeningly serious – and of course, a tale this absurd requires overarching lightness to remain authentic. When the film loses whatever small touch of camp it had, fluorescent light blasts over its many flaws: a silly-but-not-endearing script, often comically bad acting, and obvious story holes. Without the backbone of camp, Human Resources becomes a flaccid mass.
Human Resources cashes any moment of audience intrigue as permission to veer the wrong way down the road. As the intricate mystery begins to come together in a semi-satisfying way, the film adds on an additional 30 minutes that suffocates the momentum. An unseen twist is teased, and the reveal launches audiences back into eye-roll territory. When yin swallows yang, all that’s left is an unspectacular circle.
If you’re going to invest almost 2 hours in a modern horror flick, pick up something like Ready Or Not. Human Resources will fill you with all of the dread, none of the camp.