Now imagine an apartment shared by a deadite, a langolier, and a C.H.U.D.
A remake of the incredibly popular British series of the same name, Being Human takes a silly sounding premise—a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost are roommates—and plays it straight.
Aiden (Sam Witwer, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) is a vampire, having roamed the Earth since the Revolutionary War. Josh (Sam Huntington, Superman Returns) is a werewolf, having secluded himself from his family ever since discovering his “condition.” They work together at a Boston hospital, where Aiden gets the idea that they should share a small house and attempt to live normal lives, despite their abnormality.
Aiden and Josh’s new man cave turns out to be haunted by Sally (Meghan Rath, Lost and Delirious), who died in the house six months earlier. Because Aiden and Josh are fellow monsters, they’re the only ones who can see or hear Sally.
All these three want is to settle down and live ordinary lives, or afterlives as the case may be. This is complicated on three fronts. First, by the machinations of Bishop (Mark Pelligrino, Lost), who wants Aiden to give up his pacifist ways and return to the bloodsucking fold. Second is by Josh’s sister Emily, (Alison Louder, Another Silence), who wants to know why he disappeared from his family’s lives. Third is by Danny (Gianpaolo Venuta, Score: A Hockey Musical), Sally’s former fiancé and now the group’s landlord. How can Sally say goodbye and move on if can’t see or hear her?
When combined, the words “Syfy” and “remake” should strike fear into even the most battle-hardened among you. Fortunately, the new Being Human is solid entertainment. The cast is likable, the monster action is fairly sweet, and the ideas the show presents are intriguing. It’s not a groundbreaking classic that will forever change the face of television forever, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
After the two-part set-up premiere, the rest of the season—thirteen episodes total—are serialized, with plotlines and cliffhangers leading from one episode straight into the next. Most fantasy horror/fantasy shows and movies have to set up a mythology for its monsters, but this show has to do some real heavy lifting by juggling three mythologies. We get vampires, with their secret underground society and laws of their own. We get more ghosts for Sally to interact with, just as she develops all kinds of supernatural abilities. Josh struggles with his werewolfism by trying to come up with ways to wolf out every full moon without hurting anyone. There aren’t many other werewolves, but the ones we do meet show how different Josh is from the others.
The vampire plotline is often in danger of overshadowing the other character arcs. Aiden has given up killing humans, choosing instead to swipe bags of blood from the hospital in order to survive. Bishop and the other vamps want Aiden to stop this and become a full-on monster. There are a lot of scenes with Aiden struggling with constant hunger and temptation. An incident in the first episode has him losing control, complicating things significantly between him and a woman, Rebecca (Sarah Allen, Secret Window). Aiden spends the entire season with that one moment of weakness hovering over him, knowing that it has changed his and Rebecca’s life forever. Aiden lives a double life, with his roommates often unaware of what he’s up to when he’s running around confronting his fang-y rivals. Sam Witwer does a great job showing the many conflicting sides of the character. Aiden is the one who pushes the others to make something of their home and live like normal folks. It really means something to him to try to at least appear ordinary, even though he is not.
Josh is arguably the most normal of the three, even though the point is made that he must never forget that he is, in fact, a monster. Josh is reluctant to form relationships, even though he does awkwardly romance a couple of ladies, including a fun flirtation with a female doctor. He can only go so far, however, because of what he really is. Sam Huntington might be a little too good-looking for the shy, nerdy Josh, but he nails the character’s nebbishness with his performance. Josh is often the “everyman” of the show, albeit one who turns into a snarling beast on a regular basis. Interestingly, It’s not until the later part of the trailer that we actually see full-on werewolf. Until that point, we only see the beginnings of Josh’s transformations. This puts the emphasis on him as a person, and not as a special effect, which is the smart way to go.
Like Aiden, Sally is conflicted, a character pulled in two ways. At times, she’s the show’s comic relief, poking fun at her two boy roommates and their foibles, paranormal or otherwise. Because most folks can’t see or hear her, she gets to toss off a lot of wisecracks in the style of “she’d otherwise never get away with saying this,” humor. On the other hand, she’s dealing with a lot of trauma, knowing that, because she’s dead, she’ll never have the future she wanted for herself. Also, we get a lot of emotion with her following her fiancé Danny, seeing how his life has gone with out her, and learning his secrets. What’s fun about this part is how if we were seeing it only from Danny’s perspective, it would be a basic haunted house story, the same as any other haunted house story. Instead, we’re seeing it all from Sally’s perspective, and understanding exactly why the lights flicker and the pipes burble, because it corresponds to when she’s upset or reacting to something. At times, it seems as if Sally is in a different show as the other characters, as her plotlines rarely if ever intersect with Aiden and Josh’s, but as we get deeper and deeper into the ghosts and their world, Sally’s plot gives us some of the show’s most intriguing concepts. Meghan Rath is excellent at Sally, pulling off both sides of the character without ever seeming contradictory.
Although the show’s mythologies of the three monster types and where they come from get pretty deep here and there, eventually, it comes back to the three roommates just trying to get by. There’s a potent metaphor at work here. Being Human, despite all of its doom n’ gloom, is something we can all relate to. Wanting to fit in, wanting to be normal, not wanting to be considered a freak—that’s the heart of the show. After Josh’s disastrous reunion with his family, he and Aiden have a heart to heart in which Aiden reminds Josh that no matter what, they are monsters. Trying to bury our monstrous sides, to hide who we really are in order to walk down the street and not get strange looks, is something we all struggle with, whether we have fangs or not.
It’s time for the “compare it to the original” paragraph. I saw this new series and then went back to the British version and watched it, which I’ll admit is backwards from how most horror fans will come to the show. Seeing how the new show is a series of shot-for-shot recreation of many scenes from the original, this makes the new show something of a disappointment. On the bonus features, the creators talk about how they wanted to take the basic concept of the British show and then take it in their own direction, but they don’t. I can’t exactly call the original “better,” because this new version sticks follows it so closely that it is so much a remake but something less than a remake—a recreation.
The series howls at the moon on this four-disc Blu-ray set. As expected for a recently made show, all 13 episodes have a solid 1.781:1/1080p picture. The episodes are bathed in a lot of browns and reds, but images remain clear with no problems with softness or haze. 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is clean and clear as well, and I didn’t have any problems hearing the dialogue, even when the vampire characters do the “intense whisper” thing (they are vampires, so they do that). The fourth disc has some decent bonus features, including a well-made making-of doc and extended interviews with the actors.
Again, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the new Being Human. As soon as one episode ended, I wanted to watch the next one right away, which is one of the nicest things I could possibly say. Fans of the original, however, will dislike how this is the same show but with different actors and accents. Newcomers like myself, however, can have some fun with it.