Among the Living (2014)

Among the Living - EC comics posterDirector: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo

Writer: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo

Cast: Francis Renaud, Anne Marivin, Theo Fernandez, Zacharie Chasseriaud, Damien Ferdel, Beatrice Dalle

Cert: 18 (TBC)

Running time: 90mins

Year: 2014

 

The lowdown: The directing duo behind Inside and Livid deliver another slice of “all in the family” horror. Three boys bunking off school and playing in an abandoned movie studio discover a woman bound up in a car boot. Unfortunately, her kidnapper spots them and vows to keep his bizarre secret safe. 80s stalk n’ slash meets equally 80s family movies in a solid offering from the Gallic splatter merchants.

Among the Living - Theo Fernandez, Zacharie Chasseriaud, Damien FerdelAmong the Living - Anne Marivin

The full verdict: Maury and Bastillo debuted with Inside, a five star shriek of Grand Guignol that announced them as major new players on the horror stage.

Sophomore movie Livid boasted effective moments and demonstrated a flair for the supernatural.

Among the Living is an enjoyable time-passer with flashes of gory brilliance, but directors Maury and Bustillo risk running down a creative cul-de-sac. Their third film again occurs on one horrendous day that sees a malevolent force enter the protagonists’ lives, meaning not everyone will still be standing come dawn, and family ties form the motivation behind much of the violence.

A prologue has the directors’ good luck charm Beatrice Dalle (looking about 20 months pregnant in a wry nod to Inside) shacked up in a dilapidated farmhouse with her husband Isaac (Renaud). A fearsome bout of violence later and Isaac and his young son are fleeing the house.

Years later and the two cross paths with a trio of teenage tearaways. But, hi-jinks turn to high drama when the boys discover their secret and Isaac sends his strange son to silence them over one nightmarish evening.

Inside and Livid were borne of decades of Euro-horror, but with Among the Living the directors riff on classic American movies from the last forty years.

Among the Living - RenaudAmong the Living - Beatrice Dalle

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Halloween, E.T, Stand By Me and even minor fare such as The Gate are invoked in a good-looking rollercoaster movie.

The directors effortlessly stage suspense set-pieces with knockout punchlines such as rogue clown mask amongst one boy’s pile of stuffed toy comforters and a marvelous moment of “who’s that sleeping in my bed?”

Gorehounds will be disappointed this doesn’t match the charnel house levels of Inside, but an astonishing face slicing will send them home with a talking point. And space is made for black comic moments – one boy, trying to see down his babysitter’s top ultimately gets an eyeful when it’s far too late.

Scenes with the three young actors fizz with such natural chemistry it’s a shame they are separated for the second half of the film as the killer goes from house to house for more pedestrian slice n’ dice action. All this fatally ignores groundwork laid by The Goonies – never split up, never say die.

Agreeable then, but if Maury and Bustillo are to stay relevant they need to get over this one bad night they’re stuck in.

Rob Daniel