Written and directed by: Chris D.
Reviewed by: Dave Dunwoody
This 2004 feature stars Eleanor Whitledge as Jane, who has just lost her lover Dax to a heroin overdose. From this somber opening, the film descends into a grim narrative about the unforgiving and unyielding world that an addict finds himself or herself trapped in.
The walking metaphors in I Pass for Human are the vampiric ghosts of dead addicts, who feed on those still living as they’re shooting up (the therapist played by Mary Woronov suggests that they’re trying to get another fix from the blood of their victims). Jane becomes an addict herself after Dax’s death, trying the drug as a way to cope with her pain. On one hand, you ask yourself, “What the hell is she doing? Her boyfriend just died from this shit.” On the other hand…he was willing to die for that sensation. It must be something. It’s the first in a succession of sad paradoxes, the fog of irrational self-denial that addiction thrives in.
When Dax’s barely-sympathetic sister Mila recommends that the grieving Jane meet Rick (Joshua Cox), who has recently lost his own partner to the drug, the two bond as expected - then Jane learns that she’s not the only one who’s begun to see the dead. Rick’s dead girlfriend Azami (Eva Scott) is the principal among the vamps, and she’s vampy all right – I wish her performance had been toned down a bit.
The ghouls aren't the only unpleasant characters in I Pass for Human's seedy world. Jane, Mila and Rick's surviving acquaintances, including a naive cop and a brutish dealer, are picked off in a variety of ways related to their tragic lifestyle. I wouldn't say that any of these people deserve to die, though - that's not the film's message - in fact, some of the story's victims are barely related to the situation at hand. They're just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And in this film, that means just about anywhere at any time.
The undead makeup is often very subtle, but there are a few gruesome, jarring visuals and they're pulled off well. Despite these drug demons made manifest and their unsavory living counterparts, however - the real monster here is the addiction, and we watch as Jane tries (and fails) again and again to get away from it. We watch as character after character makes their final mistake and joins the cadre of the undead.
Chris D.’s work here is solid as both director and writer. He also contributes to the punk soundtrack with his renowned band The Flesh Eaters. Where the direction is sometimes a little pedestrian, the musical choices help to kick up the energy or, alternately, to emphasize the irony and despair of the miserable cycles portrayed throughout the story.
While the ending twist is appropriate, I thought the delivery was a little flat (and, sadly, it doesn't help that mainstream horror is currently oversaturated with hackneyed plot turns). But it’s still satisfying overall. I only hope that he returns to the medium of film soon.
The Arcanum DVD release features an entertaining commentary with low-key writer/director D. and producer Lynne Margulies, as well as deleted scenes, BTS material and a vampiric ’72 short by D. You’re not likely to find this one on most rental shelves, but if smart indie horror with punk sensibilities sounds like your thing, I encourage you to Buy it!
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