Review by Benjamin Poole
Directed by: Nicholas Winter
Starring: Steven Berkoff, Michael McKell, Marc Bannerman, Toyah Frantzen, Natasha James, Rebecca Scott
Transhuman is a film of many questions. ‘What do you want?’, ‘What are you doing?’, ‘Where is she?’ are the typical enquiries that bubble up from this movie’s dialogue, queries with all the empty insistence of a child in a car journey asking if we’re there yet: entreaties left unanswered as the plot trundles along, way off the map, to God only knows where. As the film continues, you’ll find yourself asking a few questions of your own too, namely, ‘What the hell am I watching?’ and ‘Wtf?’
The most persistent of your queries will likely be, in regard to the narrative, ‘What is actually happening in this film?’. As someone who has watched Transhuman out of professional obligation, with a quick finger hovering over the scrub bar to re-view portions, I’ll do my best to outline the baffling plot. Fittingly for a film that deals so readily in questions, our lead character is an investigative journalist, Alex (Natasha James, quite good to be fair), looking into an obscure cult of genetically modified humans and the associated disappearance of her mate Cassie. The film takes us from the Middle East, through Europe, ending up in a generic London basement as we chart Alex’s story. There’s some sort of conspiracy involved, which is linked to both terrorism and those bloody Nazis, too (so we know, at least, that Evil is involved - yikes!). I think that’s the sum of it - but even facts are subject to illusion too, as, according to a motif intoned a couple of times through the plot, we are gnomically reminded by the film that ‘It’s not what you know, it’s what you believe’…
But it’s difficult to know what to believe with Transhuman; the story is so opaque and its characters remote. The film opens with Cassie and her photographer investigating a corrugated skull in the desert, with their quest taking them into some creepy catacombs. The poor pap gets mauled to death off-screen by some sort of monster, while Cassie escapes. She doesn’t seem at all bothered by the loss. I’m unsure as to how her boss in Barcelona takes the news either, as when Cassie discusses the tragedy with the editor they conduct the interchange in un-subtitled Spanish (I have a little Spanish, and am at least able to discern that no one asked for an ice-cream, a beer or the bill during the conversation). Steven Berkoff pops up, but phones it in - literally, as he appears via Cassie’s Skype. He returns in the weathered flesh later, but by then there’s barely any scenery left for him to chew on. Marc Bannerman (ex of Eastenders) has gnawed it all up already, bravely attempting to chomp some energy into proceedings with his cockney ‘ard man routine. Pwopah!
Thankfully, some monsters do show up towards the end, at least. Minged up wretches who have been fiddled with by Nazi scientists, and who have also seemingly been turned evil by their ordeal. I have to say, I have no experience with amassing an ostensibly invincible army of genetically modified beasts over the best part of century, but this lot, lumbering and pathetic, don’t seem like they’d be much of a match for a well-placed smart bomb. Nothing really makes sense in Transhuman, which is a shame as the movie at least has ideas, and is occasionally filmed with a sharp eye. However, like its ungainly, biologically-refitted mutants, it’s a hot-potch that clunks along, leaving us with the lingering, unconsummated question: ‘What were they thinking?’
Transhuman is on VOD April 24th.