Thanks to AMC's horror streaming service Shudder, I was able to check out Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury's 2014 effort Among The Living last week.
While screwing around in an abandoned film studio, three delinquents become the targets of a pair of psychos when they come across their latest victim.
This film had eluded me for sometime, as after it premiered at Fantasia in 2014, it seemed to disappear into the ether. Now I know why. Mon dieu, this is a frustrating movie! With a premise like this, it could have been a home run, but I found myself sighing my way through most of this thing.
Horror movies about kids in peril are my jam and that's what originally drew me to this. Imagine Tobe Hooper's Funhouse if the bratty kid didn't fuck off home halfway through the film. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, the writers forgot that you also have to not make them complete jerks. I didn't give a shit about these brats. I'm all for truancy, but not so much the arson and golden showers. Maybe the latter is a French thing I don't know.
|Les enfants Victor (Théo Fernandez), Dan (Damien Ferdel) & Tom (Zacharie Chasseriaud)|
However, the frustrating part was just the parade of bad decisions made by the characters. Even by horror movie standards, there was a staggering amount. One of the kids, who up to this point has shown no positive qualities whatsoever, decides to charge in and save the girl instead of easily running away to find help. It's just lazy writing and it happens often. 2011's Livid, Bustillo & Maury's previous work, was nonsensical, but at least it took place in a house that limited the characters' options. Livid also had its moments, whereas even Among The Living's best bits didn't feel particularly fresh. The clown sequence wasn't even new when Amusement did it almost ten years ago.
Apart from all this, it's like Bustillo & Maury are going soft. Almost half of the violence happens offscreen and due to all the plot inconsistencies, it's really hard to care by the time you hit the third act. I mean, it's not all bad. The score by Raphaël Gesqua was rather unusual, some of the set designs were on par with that of Livid and it was nice to see – albeit briefly – Chloé Coulloud and Béatrice Dalle again. Although I now feel like when they use Dalle, it's less a fun cameo, as it is them saying 'hey guys, remember when we were good?'
When I saw Livid at TIFF, I remember thinking, good for them for not being like some of their other countrymen and diving into the first Hollywood picture they were offered. They eventually made that leap with the upcoming Leatherface movie and I can't help but feel like, at this point, it may be the best thing for them. I'll guess we'll see.