Halloween Review – “Shelf Life / Subhuman”

Here’s the second film in our Canadian independent horror weekend.

Cast and Crew Information

William MacDonald as Martin
Bryce McLaughlin as Ben
Courtney Kramer as Julie
Earl Pastko is credited as “Old Man” on the IMDB, but he’s “Socrates” in the credits.
Paralee Cook as Tanya

Written and directed by Mark Tuit

Availability Information

This movie is available DVD from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.


Ben and Julie get involved with Martin, a man who has made it his mission to hunt a hidden species on this world.

High Point

I got a bit of a kick out of the Daredevil references.

Low Point

While the effects were terrible, the character choices are worse. I can’t imagine that Martin would have performed the actions of his last on screen appearance in front of that particular witness, for example.

The Review

This is not an original concept. The “aliens among us” motif was common in low budget horror for some time before this came out. I give it 2 out of 6.

The effects are bad. There’s just no other way to say it. There’s not a single convincing decapitation in the film, and there are a lot of decapitations. Even the sound effects are weak, particularly in the only confrontation in which the blades swish through the air. I give it 1 out of 6.

The story is hampered by the fact that it was directed by the writer. There are scenes in the script which should have been cut but weren’t. The characters have unreasonable tendencies to engage in deep philosophical debates about reality (often pertaining to drug use) in the middle of stressful situations. There’s even a regular at a bar who seems to exist for the sole purpose of providing a vessel for these debates. They are unrealistic and out of place. Worse yet, the debates regarding drug use are the only ones that are never opposed, making it feel more like the movie is preaching than trying to open discussion on that topic. When we set these debates aside, many of which are only tangentially related to the plot, we are left with a monster hunt that is more concerned with how cool the hunter is than anything else. This hunter needs only six hours to “repair himself” from a car accident that caused four broken ribs. Yet, when it’s all said and done, he is merely human with no supernatural elements in his origins or histories. It simply doesn’t reconcile. Add in the gangster trio, who seem to exist solely to show how cool the hero is, and you’ve got a seriously flawed script. This should have been rewritten before it was filmed. I give it 2 out of 6.

The acting is uneven. The lead plays his role well, while McLaughlin and Kramer are uneven. The characters are written unevenly, so there were limits to their performances from the start, but they should have been able to manage better than this. They are often stiff, and do not come across as believable. Every other character is a one trick pony, and most of them perform that one trick well enough. I give it 3 out of 6.

The production is weak. Again, the focus is more on making Martin cool than on telling the story, and the entire flick suffers for it. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response is poor. It’s rare that I check the running time this often when watching a movie. It starts out well enough establishing the world. Making an effort to establish how cool Martin is during the opening moments is perfectly fine. Once this was established, however, it needed to be set aside to let the story move on. I suspect the writer was on drugs when working on the script, and the “make it cool” goal was allowed to overwhelm the rest where a rational mind may have spotted the problems. (Given the philosophies portrayed, I wonder if the writer ever works while sober for fear of seeing problems with the work.) I give it 2 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a weak film, and one that didn’t have a chance given the present writer/director. It was originally released with the title “Shelf Life,” which makes sense given the script as it is. It was released on DVD as “Subhuman,” which doesn’t make sense; the creatures being hunted are described as being “one rung above human” on the evolutionary ladder. It reeks of changing the name to dissociate itself from bad reviews. I now understand why. I give it 2 out of 6.

In total, Shelf Life / Subhuman receives 15 out of 42.

2 replies on “Halloween Review – “Shelf Life / Subhuman””

  1. Kudos for having the strength to make it through these films. And yeah, it seems pretty clear they changed the title in an attempt to lengthen the film’s Shelf Live.

  2. In defense of Mark Tuit, he’s been making films since he was a teen, which is pretty cool. He just has to get around to making a good one.

    (Yeah, maybe he has, somewhere)

    He’s just finished a 3-E film called Bunny Tales and a horror called Blood: A Butcher’s Tale.

    In the debit column, we have this film, and the fact that he’s trying to sell a spec script for Halloween Ten.

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