Among the Living could almost serve as a warning against truancy. Three disruptive children decided to slack off their last day of school, making their way into the nearby fields to smoke and be unruly adolescents. After a bit of recreational arson they decide to investigate the local ruins of an abandoned film studio, which is where things start getting really sticky. Sticky in the blood-all-over-the-place sense.
Among the Living is a French slasher flick with added sci-fi weirdness. We’re introduced to the killer in the recent past, with an ex-solider father watching news reports suggesting that soldiers involved in a similarly recent military action may have affected by mutated DNA causing unexpected problems in offspring. It’s the kind of news report that usually plays quietly and utterly ignored in the background at the beginning of Zombie movies. And it’s something which makes this otherwise fairly standard “monster in a haunted house” slasher just that little bit different.
For the majority of the film the killer Klarence does his abominable crimes wearing a clown mask – something which clearly marks him out as a wrong ‘un before he causes a single drop of blood to fall. But the moment he reveals himself properly is when things start to get really weird.
By focusing on the young bickering friendship group the film shows a clear influence from Spielberg’s movies as director and producer of the 1980s, like ET and Goonies. The cinematography, seemingly shot through a haze of vintage instagram filters, also gives the story a curiously timeless setting which could well be taking place 30 years ago. Indeed, when a babysitter produces a mobile phone it’s something of a surprise (not least because none of the other kids had one to phone the police with earlier).
Although the setting changes from abandoned location to family home to family home, the film essentially sticks to the normal “monster in a haunted house” slasher flick outline by slowly picking of the main characters one by one, leading to a final standoff. Thankfully it handles all of this very successfully.
The performances, even for the slightly weird background to the tale, are all grounded and believably real. All of the children are outstanding. It’s not a desperately different version of the genre – you’ll have seen films like it before – but it is a tight and tense tale, pacily told with admirable suspense, and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Among the Living is out on DVD on 7th March and is worth catching if you have an idle 90 minutes.