Whilst one man attempts to salvage his marriage by using a revolutionary new drug, his brother is determined to become famous by creating a film around it. We review We’ll Test It On Humans.
We’ll Test It On Humans is an interesting piece of amateur filmmaking which all in all, impressed me way more than I anticipated when it began. The film tells the story of two hapless brothers, Ernie and Kurt, who are both totally different from one another. Whilst Ernie is a preppy, geeky, nervous and well-meaning scientist’s assistant, Kurt is quite the opposite; he’s a down-and-out hippy, and of course, an aspiring filmmaker. Much to the chagrin of Ernie and his wife, Kurt is living in squalor on his brother’s couch. Ernie is experiencing marital problems, and as such, devises a plan to solve the issues. In his lab at work, a drug has been developed that will cause anyone who is dosed with it to fall in love with the other person. Ernie’s plan is to give this to Joan, his wife, and make them both happy again. Kurt’s plan is to film it and get famous.
We’ll Test It On Humans strikes me as the effort of a filmmaker in the early stages of their career, in the kindest of ways to say it possible. Most scenes play out either in long wide shots, in a single continuous take, or otherwise in shot-reverse-shot set-ups, which doesn’t make for the most exciting viewing experience. However, whilst the cinematography was less than adventurous, the credits revealed that not only were Brian Gianci and Chris Shenkle playing the two leads (Ernie and Kurt respectively), but they were also directing and producing the film. More specifically, Shenkle shot and edited the film too- which makes a little more sense as to why the shots were simply just the camera pointed at what was going on in the scene. It was also clear this was the case when the scenes that Kurt didn’t feature in were shot a little more ambitiously.
This was initially what made me feel I was watching a debut filmmaker’s work, but if this is the case, then I’m excited to see what else they can do, in particular with a cast, where they can focus on being behind the camera. It’s difficult to be visually ambitious without a crew, especially when you’re on screen for pretty much the entire movie, so this can be forgiven.
Having said that though, the two should be proud of themselves for grabbing the audience with their performances and humour, both of which held my attention pretty much throughout the movie. Shenkle’s Kurt is annoying and pretentious; qualities that he plays fantastically, particularly next to Gianci’s stressy Ernie. It’s easy to see these are the men that wrote the script, and they deliver the dialogue with a dry humour that I couldn’t help but chuckle at throughout. I imagine some improvisation was involved at certain points, but whatever was done to achieve the chemistry between the two characters, it worked, and I fully believed that these men were brothers.
Conclusively, We’ll Test It On Humans was a fun 80-minute watch, that perhaps could have been edited a little tighter and as such, a little shorter. If Gianci and Shenkle cast professional actors and put all of their energy into the direction, cinematography, and editing, the film I think would benefit. However, this isn’t to take away from their fun and engaging performances, I tip my hat for their wholehearted ambition and dedication in this area. The film spends a lot of time focusing on filmmaking, too, which was another strong point for me. I love films about filmmaking – ala One Cut of the Dead, Barton Fink and Ed Wood – and We’ll Test It On Humans played up to this genre a lot more than I thought it would. As Kurt’s desperation to capture the operation on camera grew stronger and stronger, I found myself more and more engaged with the story, so this was a wise decision.
Overall, we can tell Gianci and Shenkle love movies, and they clearly had a blast making this one. I look forward to their future work, be it in front of or behind the camera.