Tony Black on why you should be watching Inhuman Condition…
Let me fess up from the beginning – Inhuman Condition was made by a friend, someone I’ve known for quite some time, so I’ll do my best not to let bias creep in during my thoughts on his brand new web series, released on YouTube via Smokebomb Entertainment. RJ Lackie is a Canadian writer and filmmaker who I first met over a decade ago on a writers website I’m still involved in, a place very dear to my heart called MZPtv. He’s come a long way from his days as a young writer tinkering around with amateur scribes such as me, and this web series is not just the crowning achievement of his career to date, but also a project to genuinely be proud of. Web series haven’t always had the critical respect they perhaps deserve, but Inhuman Condition suggests a sea change in how such projects may be perceived given a strong premise backed up with tight, compact writing, and a certain production gloss which belies its low budget roots.
The premise is simple, and cost-effective. Dr. Michelle Kessler (played by former Stargate Atlantis headliner Torri Higginson) is a psychiatrist to the paranormal, basically; she has recurring sessions with patients ‘diagnosed’ with numerous supernatural elements, be they effectively the ‘walking dead’ such as Clara, a young woman so haunted by what she considers her affliction she seeks to end her life, or Linc, a young, angry and sly Lycan (aka werewolf) who may well be a burgeoning terrorist in the making.
Taking clear inspiration from the psychologist sessions in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, Inhuman Condition has Michelle as the controlled but not dispassionate doctor attempting to explore the mindset of her out of control patients, most of whom have very human reasons for acting and reacting the way they do. Lackie crafts characters who steadily begin to peel away layers across the episodes to date, as indeed does Michelle herself – he’s not afraid to add in developing emotional beats such as her relationship with her daughter or ex-husband, complicated by her own sexuality. The real interest comes, however, in those interactions with said patients – Linc in particular, arguably the most well realised ‘inhuman’ so far.
What you don’t notice, and this isn’t always the case with independent web series, is the lack of budget; Lackie’s writing and direction from Jared Pelletier, who always allows the dialogue heavy scenes to breathe and doesn’t let his camera get in the way, provides enough meat on the bone for audiences to chew on without having to see Linc transform for instance, or show necessarily what’s going on in the outside world. What we need to know is provided by dialogue, or momentary snap shot scenes filmed on location which add a little more to the story, but the majority of the action is a one-set conversation between Michelle and her patient, and it’s frequently engaging.
Episodes don’t outstay their welcome either, ranging anywhere between four and eight minutes roughly, just enough time to become engaged by the drama and enjoy waiting for more. Lackie tantalises a mythology and backstory to the world of Inhuman Condition that doesn’t always play out on screen, but provides extra depth. It has to also be said that Higginson’s presence is a boon; she adds a certain class and gravitas to the script and story, carrying episodes well while letting the ‘inhuman’ characters shine through. Mind you, to call those characters truly inhuman is to miss the point of what Lackie is trying to accomplish here, telling a story in which humanity and what it means to be human is questioned through the prism of these extraordinary young people, as all the best science fiction and supernatural drama does.
We’re only eight episodes into a promised thirty plus produced so far of Inhuman Condition, but it’s without question worth your time. Episodes are released fresh on YouTube every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which means you won’t be kept long until your next fix as these characters develop and the world blossoms around them. The beauty of web series such as this is also their swift length, capable of consuming quickly, so if you’re looking for a bite sized chunk of strong drama, for free, you can do a lot worse than checking out RJ Lackie’s work on Inhuman Condition. I always had faith in him!
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.