December 24, 2021
An eerie set and creepy camerawork ramp up the paranoia in Stephen Karam’s supremely effective adaptation of his play
The Humans review – Thanksgiving family drama turns apocalyptic
Stephen Karam has adapted his award-winning 2016 Broadway play for the cinema, and directs: the result is like an expressionist horror by Polanski. In theory, it’s about a family gathering for a Thanksgiving lunch, the sort of event that can usually be expected to bring about the phased disclosure of all the characters’ individual secrets and micro-tragedies. This feels more serious. These people look like the last group of humans left alive after some apocalyptic catastrophe, the remnants of homo sapiens being watched and examined at a distance by aliens. The grimly damp and undecorated duplex in which they have assembled could almost be a mass hallucination, triggered by a trauma worse than anything they’re talking about.
Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and Richard (Steven Yeun) are a young couple who have put themselves under great financial strain to rent a place in Manhattan: this dark, dank, creepy apartment. Perhaps to brazen out whatever second thoughts they’re having, the couple have invited their extended family for a Thanksgiving lunch as a housewarming event, before they’ve had a chance to get it properly furnished. Brigid’s parents Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell) and Erik (Richard Jenkins) arrive with Erik’s mother Momo (June Squibb) in a wheelchair: she has dementia. Then there is Brigid’s sister Aimee (Amy Schumer) who is on her own after a breakup.
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