There are some interesting “big ideas” running through the storyline of Inhumanity concerning the role of nature-vs-nurture in the creation of the human personality; the interplay of punishment and redemption in the criminal justice system; and the tension between the exercise of free will and the adoption of moral behaviour. But it’s hard to imagine that writer-director Joe McReynolds has ambitions to be seen as a thoughtful “high-brow” filmmaker if the shlock tropes of this grim sci-fi crime-horror are anything to go by.
A serial rapist and murderer dubbed “Six Pack Sam” is subdued by armed police during his latest assault, leaving his victim Jessa Dixon fighting for her life in hospital. While the authorities assure the public that the killer died whilst resisting arrest, the truth is that he has been sequestered in a medical facility run by the dubious Korp corporation.
With crime rife and private prisons at bursting point, forensic psychiatrist Dr Campbell is synthesizing a drug that could transform the criminally insane into upright and obedient citizens. The same pharmacology could enable Campbell and her associates to control and direct the behaviour of anyone they inject. Six Pack Sam is to be their most challenging test subject, while - behind the scenes - rivals and competitors battle to take control of the technology for themselves.
When Jessa recovers from her ordeal, she learns that her father, detective Bobby Dixon, is dead and appears to have taken his own life, distraught at his daughter’s suffering. But Jessa refuses to believe this and begins to uncover conspiracies involving Korp, organised crime and corrupt police officers, and soon finds herself in jeopardy once again.
No-budget sci-fi flicks usually work best when they adopt a focused premise and deliver a story through the actions of a tight ensemble of relatable characters. Inhumanity, in contrast, has too many plotlines and too large a pool of characters, which results in a loss of clarity and (with a running time thirty minutes longer than is warranted) a dilution of narrative impact. The quality of the performances amongst the professional and amateur cast is as uneven as you would expect, but Darcel Danielle stands out from the crowd for her gutsy portrayal of the resilient and determined Jessa.
The best of the action scenes are energetic and at least try to pack a visceral punch. The original score by Tony Longworth is suitably edgy and forceful. But there are a lot of lengthy, and fairly static, exchanges of dialogue, and plenty of exposition (and reminders of earlier exposition) to slow the pace.
Exploitation flicks often come with their own amoral, non-judgemental codes. But Inhumanity is not sufficiently grindhouse to qualify as one of those, so its depictions of sexualized violence are especially problematic. The filmmakers seem keener on close-up depictions of the strangulation of female victims than is healthy. It’s a focus that feels gratuitous and hard to justify “artistically”.
There’s heavy signposting of McReynolds’ interest in bringing a sequel or even a Six Pack Killer film franchise to the screen, but in the context of an already overlong two-hour serial killer chase, that deferment only adds to the sense of a lack of closure here.
INHUMANITY / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JOE MCREYNOLDS / SCREENPLAY: JOE MCREYNOLDS / STARRING: DARCEL DANIELLE, DIANA ROSE, FORD AUSTIN, LEVITICUS WOLFE, KARL ANDERSON / RELEASE DATE: TBC