Stephen Karam’s ‘The Humans’ will humanize your family

Ella Kharrazi

The screen adaptation of Stephen Karam’s 2016 Tony Award-winning Broadway play, The Humans, was released on Nov. 24, making for the perfect eerie holiday movie. The film, written and directed by Karam, features the Blake family, a couple and their two grown, independent children, spending Thanksgiving together. Displaying the reality of family gatherings, the Blake’s conversations do not stray from controversial topics, and different approaches and viewpoints are disputed. As the evening progresses, secrets are unraveled and profound emotions are revealed in this thought-provoking horror film. 

Set in Brigid Blake (Beanie Feldstein) and her boyfriend Richard’s (Steven Yeun) dilapidated, lower Manhattan apartment, the family tension is apparent from the start. Erik Blake (Richard Jenkins), Brigid’s father, immediately criticizes the apartment, commenting on its chipped paint and flickering lights. He disapproves of Brigid’s living situation, while Deirdre Blake (Jayne Houdyshell), Brigid’s mother, is dissatisfied with Brigid’s marital status. 

Each family member holds their own secrets, eliciting a disconnect from the rest of their family. From the beginning, Erik seems out of touch with his family, staring out of the window with a dazed expression. Almost every sound seems to startle him, and his distracted manner prompts concern from his family members. Meanwhile, Aimee Blake (Amy Schumer), Brigid’s sister, is struggling with her health and relationships. Brigid simply tries to keep spirits high and host her unforgiving family in her new apartment. 

Sitting around the dinner table for Thanksgiving, the Blake family laughs, covering the underlying tensions that continue to rise. (Courtesy of A24 Films)

Diverse camera angles and unique shots portray each character in their various states of mind. By focusing the camera on one character for prolonged periods during a conversation, the audience is transported into their mind, grasping the character’s true emotions by witnessing their facial expressions when they are not speaking. The camera also follows the family members when they are alone. The sighs and disappearing smiles when separated from the rest of the family share their stories better than words. 

Footage taken from the perspective of the broken glass in the apartment or the cracks in the wood further exhibit the deteriorating building and add to the eerie tone of the film. The camera moves from the protruding paint on the wall, to the broken chair, to the duct-taped toilet seat, as the state of the apartment mirrors the family’s fate.

The sinister soundtrack and sound effects also contribute to the mood of the movie. Each time tensions rise, music accompanies it, creating suspense and causing one’s heart to quicken. The thuds and crashes from the neighbor upstairs line up perfectly with the suspense, prompting startled jumps and sending a chill down the viewer’s spine. As if the soundtrack and noises did not arouse enough anxiety, Erik’s mother, who suffers from dement

Aware of Erik Blake’s dark secret, Deirdre Blake urges him to share it before the night becomes too ominous. (Courtesy of A24 Films)

ia, contributes random outbursts of nonsensical words, causing further worry and distress for the family.

Throughout the night, the family members begin confessing their darkest secrets, and each faces their impending doom. The family breaks down as the thuds from upstairs start to boom, the soundtrack blares and Erik’s mother lets out deafening cries.

A relatable film featuring a typical dysfunctional family, The Humans is suspenseful and sprinkled with horror elements. It is available on Showtime and in theaters, if you are looking to spice up your holiday season with a few jump scares and a movie theater view of the Blake family’s lives.