Dir. Braden Swope (2021)
A hardware store houses a terrifying secret that employees try to uncover while on the clock.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I’ve always thought Human Resources was an odd, yet telling, name for a professional workplace department. Taken literally, it shows that your job literally views you like another item on the shelf, another product to deliver to its customers that is easily cut from the lineup the second it becomes easier to do so than to deal with. It’s corporate nomenclature for liability, something that costs the company money rather than makes the company money. Despite all of the attempts that your job may make to convince you otherwise, they lay it all out for you by having a department called Human Resources to show you that you’re nothing but fodder for the monster that actually runs the business. Unfortunately for Sam Coleman (Hugh McCrae Jr.), this is… a little more literal than normal.
Coleman has been looking for a job forever and he’s starting to doubt that he’ll ever find one. Fortunately, he gets a call from Brooke’s Hardware, who is looking to ramp up their staffing on cashiers before Black Friday. The opening of the film shows an employee being chased through the store by a mysterious creature, and Sam eventually decides, with the help of coworker Sarah (Sarah Jose), to investigate his disappearance. What follows is a mostly slow-burn film whose production does the best it can to cover for a small budget, limited what the audience is allowed to see in order to save the money for where it matters. It perhaps would have been a bit wiser to cut down on the length somewhat, as it does drag a bit during it’s 1:48 runtime.
The acting is passable from a very young cast, as McCrae Jr. and Jose teenagers during filming. Hell, even director Braden Swope was a teenager during the making of this film, which does show at times due to some of the more amateur production values. The sound is a bit wonky at times, giving an echoey acoustical feel to some of the dialogue, but it doesn’t take too much out of the film, and certainly doesn’t affect the viewing as much as some of the films I’ve watched. There are some genuinely creepy moments, ones that tease the final reveal and make it a compelling watch despite the overly-slow plot. There definitely could’ve been a good bit of the time shaved off, though, especially some of the scenes where McCrae just looks worried into the camera (which is unfortunately much more often than it should be).
One part of the film that shined for me was actor Anthony Candell as Gene, the middle manager of the hardware store who is way too excited to be there. He’s one of those all-in guys that all of us who have worked retail have worked under, the guy who thinks that the cheesy 80’s orientation video is an Oscar winner and who knows the handbook like he’s studying to pass his LSAT. He’s funny and interesting to watch, and I actually wanted to keep my eyes glued to the screen to find out where his character would end up. Tim Misuradze, who plays Brooke’s owner Brian, is also excellent, the creepy and imposing character that the film needed to disguise the fact that the “real” villains don’t show up until the end. Of course, as anyone who has worked retail can attest, the managers are the real evil in the American workplace. Candell and Misuradze do a great job of representing this existential threat to workers around the world.
Who this movie is for: Indie film fans, Workplace horror lovers, Black Friday shoppers
Bottom line: The film plods along at times and the acting is passable but not better-than-passable, but Human Resources is an interesting little indie workplace horror nonetheless. Anthony Candell is delightful as the middle manager, and he’s worth watching the film by himself. It’s a decent effort from some first-time filmmakers, and young director Braden Swope is only going to get better. The idea was good, and I think with a little more time and experience under his belt he’ll be able to bring us a lot more entertaining films. Still definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of indie horror.