We’ll Test It on Humans

Not that I should ever be giving advice, but here we go. Something I like to tell creative types is “Master the rules before you break them.” For example, filmmakers and writers are taught this standard story structure in film and literary classes and told to abide by it. But, once you understand why that structure exists and why it works, the innovative creator will screw with it to do something fresh and new with it. The filmmaking team of Brian Gianci and Chris Shenkle blurs the lines between good and evil in We’ll Test It on Humans. But will the result be something new and innovative?

Our “hero” Ernie (Brian Gianci) is having marital problems with his wife Joan (Courtney Desman). One problem is he’s a very “weak” husband, and he suffers verbal abuse from Joan, which quite frankly he might deserve. The other problem is the fact that his stepbrother Kurt (Chris Shenkle) is crashing in their living room. Kurt is a “filmmaker” and just needs a spark of inspiration for his next film. In the meantime, he’s a mooch, pissing Joan off to no end. Rather than do the right thing, Ernie pleas with Joan to attend marriage therapy together, and she resists.

As Joan leaves for an indefinite period of time, Ernie confides in Kurt that the lab where he works has developed a “love potion” that makes any two people fall in love, but the potion has only been tested on rats. Ernie decides to give that potion to his wife in hopes of saving his marriage, but being a “moral” person, he hesitates because he doesn’t know if there are any side effects for humans.

“…developed a “love potion” that makes any two people fall in love, but the potion has only been tested on rats.”

Kurt has a great idea. Test the potion on two strangers, and at the same time, Kurt will use hidden cameras and capture the results for a documentary. Ernie reluctantly agrees, and the two subjects are real estate agents Joe (James Wirt) and Liz (Alana Gianci). As Kurt slips the potion into Joe and Liz’s drinks, Ernie spots Liz’s wedding ring. Oh no, Ernie tries to stop the experiment, but Kurt blocks him saying it will ruin his film.

The potion works, and Joe and Liz start humping like rabbits. Liz leaves her husband Jake (Kevin O’Donnell) for her new found love. To further ratchet up the urgency, Joan tells Ernie, she can’t stand him anymore and threatens to leave. Is it time for Joan to become part of the experiment?

I mentioned at the beginning, We’ll Test It on Humans blurs the lines between good and evil. It also blurs the line between likable and unlikable characters, which is problematic, especially for our two protagonists, Ernie and Kurt. We should have some sympathy for Ernie because his wife hates him, but Ernie plays a primary role in situation. Kurt, on the other hand, is just a selfish moron. Let’s add on top of that this morally repugnant secret experiment they are perpetrating on two innocent people. In a #MeToo era, the idea of a “love potion” may not go over too well by the masses, but in the film’s defense is not ignored.

“…the ending of the film involving Ernie and Joan takes a beautiful dark turn and plays out in a Hitchcockian manner.”

One might argue that this problem is the main point of the film. Two bad people doing something bad and at the end paying for their badiness. That may be true, but the problem is the victims are also portrayed as unlikable people, specifically Joan and Liz’s husband Jake (Kevin O’Donnell).  If this is a movie about bad people, then I’ll refer you to the opening piece of advice, “Master the rules before you break them.” If you’re going to ask an audience to follow the adventure of two morally corrupt people, the audience has to emotionally connect with the plight of those protagonists in order to buy into the bad things they do. It just doesn’t happen.

The film also has other problems. First, there are sound clarity issues. Dialogue is not clear or crisp. Also, much of the comedy is derived from slapstick and general silliness (e.g., Kurt stumbling through the real estate office planting hidden cameras), which falls flat and becomes tiresome after a while. Ernie and Kurt both refer to their wives as “babe”…a lot. It gets annoying.

It’s not all bad. Strangely, Liz’s husband Jake is supposed to be a bad guy, but you find a great deal of sympathy for him considering Ernie and Jake ruined his marriage. At one point, Jake exacts revenge on Kurt and not only does it play out well, but you sort of root for Jake and what happens to Kurt, you’ll feel he deserves. To me, this was clearly the best part of the film.

Also, the ending of the film involving Ernie and Joan takes a beautiful dark turn and plays out in a Hitchcockian manner. I really liked this ending…only to be ruined by its wacky end credit sequences, which negates the ending. So frustrating. While the film had enough problems preventing it from getting a recommendation. There’s enough good moments for Gianci and Shenkle to try it again with their next.

We’ll Test It on Humans (2019) Written and directed by Brian Gianci, Chris Shenkle. Starring Brian Gianci, Chris Shenkle, Courtney Desman, Alaina Gianci, Kevin O’Donnell, James Wirt.

4 out of 10 stars

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