The Humans review

I will fight the urge to comment on the passage of time and how quickly it passes through our splayed fingers. Instead let's focus on a brand new month of hopeful film picks. We've decided to go for a Free For All to tick off some of the titles on our watchlists - and also neither of us were feeling particularly inspired when it came to choosing a theme.

This week we take a little trot down A24 Lane with Netflix's new offering. Sold as a drama, I've also read a few takes on it being a modern horror movie which is harder to process but makes sense. I'll go into it below but ultimately let you be the judge. 

"Don't you think it should cost less to be alive?"

The Humans (2021)

Set inside a pre-war duplex in downtown Manhattan, The Humans follows the course of an evening in which the Blake family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving. As darkness falls outside the crumbling building, mysterious things start to go bump in the night and family tensions reach a boiling point.


Erik Blake (Richard Jenkins) and his family - wife Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell), daughter Aimee (Amy Schumer) and mother Momo (June Squibb) - are visiting his other daughter at the crumbling apartment she shares with her boyfriend in Manhattan. It's Thanksgiving, so naturally emotions are already running high. Daughter Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) is desperate for her family to love her boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun) and accept their decision to live in the city, leaving the Blakes behind in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, there are secrets bumbling underneath the surface and honestly, when and where else are they likely to come bursting forth?

As the family discusses (and bickers about) everything from their worrying dreams, near-death experiences, depression, employment (or lack thereof) and religion - all seems pretty normal - and relatable. But is there something else at play here? 

As the lights burn out from room to room, the laundry nook makes unacceptable rumbling noises and the neighbours' terrorise from above with their heavy footsteps - could something terrible be about to happen? Well, yes actually but maybe not how you're expecting.

Aimee has just broken up with a girlfriend and is heartbroken, whilst also wrestling with a serious health quandary. Deirdre has fallen off the Weight Watchers wagon and sends bizarre emails to her daughters of a religious nature which they blatantly ignore. Momo is rarely with it, suffering from severe dementia and terrifying moments of mental torment, which are hard for her family to deal with. 

Erik is the patriarch quick to lecture Brigid on her privilege and ponder how easily she and her boyfriend will accept medication and organic superfoods into their lives, but not religion. A nice place to be sitting I suppose for old dad, except maybe he's the most scared person of all with the biggest secret. And when that secret is finally revealed, just after dinner and a charming Whack a Pig Thanksgiving game, things get really real. 

But what is real?

I think going into this thinking of it as a horror movie, even of an 'elevated'* nature might leave you disappointed. The horror is the unknown, the steady marching of our own mortality and fine, I get that - it's horror. It's the scariest thing in the world, nevermind home invasion or knife fingers. 

Everything about the way the film is shot - its very strategic lighting and framing - is a horror movie. But the supervillain is life itself. The crushing inevitability of life and death - and it is bleak. 

All the performances are polished to a tee, but I especially enjoyed Dierdre, maybe because she's a very Mum mum. Easy to take the piss out of but also heartbreakingly vulnerable. That's the thing I liked about this, it's very much a double-edged sword - just like family - nobody can make you laugh and mock you like your family members and nobody can drive you nuts/hurt you like them either. There are many comic moments littered throughout that keep this from dragging us too far down into the darkness. Thank fuck.

There's a moment during the Whack a Pig game where Erik thanks his family for their unconditional love and his hopes that he'll never do anything to change that. Which of course is put to the test in the films climax. The last frame of the film is so haunting and the last five to ten minutes really leans into the panic and fear of what's coming for us all one day. 

The use of light deserves another mention as it really helps isolate characters from one another as they find themselves trapped in dark pockets of the apartment, which is all long narrow hallways and interesting split levels. I think this plays into the concept of Erik's unconditional love concerns - how one moment one can be sitting on top of their family in a tiny living space, then totally alone the next. 

Erik's description of the faceless lady that appears in his dreams, stopping him from sleeping properly, is chilling and during a panic attack it seems like she's finally here to claim whatever it is she wants - ugh it's actually brilliant and will probably stay with me long after the rest of the dialogue has faded from memory. 

I think enjoyable might be a stretch here but it is very interesting and compelling. 

– Genres:
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– My score: 4/5
– Runtime: 108 mins

What does my wife think of The Humans? Find out here, obvs.

*Maannn, I hate this term. 


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